Toronto synagogue Kehillat Shaarei Torah had its windows broken before Passover. A dead raccoon was left in its parking lot after the holiday began

Dead raccoon at Kehillat Shaarei Torah, Toronto, April 2024

A dead raccoon was left in the parking lot at the same Toronto synagogue where days earlier a masked person smashed five windows with a hammer.

The second incident targeting Kehillat Shaarei Torah (KST) in less than one week took place Monday evening, about an hour after the start time of Passover, according to Michael Gilmore, the synagogue’s executive director.

A synagogue member who visits daily to maintain the building found the raccoon near the trash bins on Tuesday morning, April 23, Gilmore learned when he returned to work April 25. (The synagogue member contacted City of Toronto about the animal by phoning 311, Gilmore said.)

The two reviewed the video, which Gilmore says shows two people were involved.

“Monday night at 9 p.m., basically on the dot, a man and a woman pulled up in a dark hatchback,” Gilmore told The CJN.

Reviewing the video with a Toronto police officer from 32 Division later on April 25, Gilmore said the officer noticed the raccoon lying in northbound traffic on Bayview Avenue.

“The car had driven past the animal, and immediately turned left onto Fifeshire [Road], then turned into our parking lot,” he says.

“Two people then got out of their vehicle, grabbed something from the trunk to hold the animal,” and ran into traffic to pick up the animal, he says, after which they “laid it down” in the parking lot.

“They disposed of the bags they used to carry the animal in the garbage,” before leaving, he said.

“Why not move it to the side, on the grass, and not onto our property?”

He says the animal was found about five to 10 feet from the dumpster.

“It was definitely purposeful, because they had the wherewithal to throw out their trash into the garbage, but left the raccoon on our property.”

Gilmore called the Toronto Police Service (TPS) investigator from the Hate Crimes Unit that is working on the smashed windows investigation, who told him to make a statement to 32 Division about the second incident.

The constable from 32 Division told him they are investigating the dead raccoon dumping as a suspicious incident, Gilmore says. The CJN wrote to TPS media relations to confirm the details but did not receive a reply by press time.

Michael Gilmore, executive director of Kehillat Shaarei Torah, says the synagogue community will not forget that someone smashed its windows on April 19, 2024. (Credit: Jonathan Rothman)

Unlike the previous incident—in which Gilmore says the person who smashed five of the synagogue’s windows with a hammer wore gloves, a hooded jacket, and had their face covered—Gilmore says the video shows what the two people did, but at a distance, revealing fewer details.

“It’s unclear whether this is connected, but… you don’t dump a raccoon into a synagogue parking lot by accident,” he said.

Gilmore said administrators had already met on Sunday, April 21, following the window smashing incident, to continue discussing security upgrades, which he says the synagogue plans to implement soon.

One of the windows at Kehillat Shaarei Torah that was smashed in the early hours of April 19, 2024. The synagogue says security video shows an individual with a hammer broke five of the synagogue’s windows. (Credit: Jonathan Rothman)

Meanwhile, Gilmore says that while the five smashed windows were temporarily repaired with transparent polycarbonate panes around the broken ones, the glass had not yet been replaced.

“We’re looking to keep one of the windows broken as it is, as a symbol that we won’t forget that this was done,” he says, explaining the synagogue would choose one broken windowpane to remain, and surround it with new glass on both sides.

“We’re stronger than this,” says Gilmore about the synagogue windows. “We want it to be a symbol of strength.”