Monday morning saw the Toronto community and politicians showing support for the Chabad girls’ school struck by weekend gunfire

Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School in Toronto had a window broken by a shooter, May 25, 2024.

Hundreds of people, as well as the mayor of Toronto, the city’s police chief and municipal and provincial politicians, turned out in the pouring rain on May 27 to demonstrate their support for the Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School.

Shots were fired at the building just before 5 a.m. on May 25, breaking a window in front of the school, said Toronto Police.

In a security video two suspects can be seen getting out of a dark-coloured vehicle—which neither of them appeared to be driving—and opening rounds of fire on the fenced-in building at 4375 Chesswood Dr., near the intersection of Dufferin and Finch.

The Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force, with the help of the Hate Crime Unit are investigating, Toronto Police said in a news release.

Bais Chaya Mushka had recently spent $200,000 to put in specially armoured glass and other renovations. Half the funding came from the federal government’s Security Infrastructure Program (SIP) grant.

Rabbi Yaakov Vidal, principal of the Chabad Lubavitch elementary school, located in an industrial area in northwest Toronto, said he learned of the incident on Shabbat afternoon, when the school’s caretaker came to his home to inform him.

“It was pretty shocking, it was something that’s totally unexpected,” he said in an interview with The CJN, shortly before the community rally and the arrival of students. “But we’ve got to move forward and makes sure the kids can come back to school.

“Parents are concerned, but we’re grateful to have all the security we have here, the police force, and the reassurance that they’re going to be here with us until safety is restored.”

Municipal and provincial politicians spoke to the crowd outside the school as parents and school buses dropped off children.

“My word to the hater, to the shooter, is it’s a despicable, antisemitic act. It was a disgusting attempt to intimidate the community, to fill people with fear and we say to these cowards we will find you. You will be held responsible,” said Mayor Olivia Chow.

“The chief (of police, Myron Demkiw) and I have spoken and his team is working every minute of every day to keep you and your loved ones safe in our city. They will be increasing their presence around schools and synagogues and other places where you and your family gather.”

The city has convened meetings with city staff and police to evaluate the security needs of schools and other institutions, the mayor told The CJN, starting with the Miles Nadal JCC in downtown Toronto.

“We said let’s identify what needs to be done and where there’s a will, there’s always a way,” Chow told The CJN when asked whether the city would offer funding for security improvements.

Several MPPs and city councillors expressed their support for the Jewish community.

“I want to speak to the non-Jewish community who is with us today… to stand up and speak up against the vile rise of antisemitism being normalized on the streets of this country. To stand up to those who seek to instill fear in the hearts of young girls and children,” provincial education minister Stephen Lecce told the crowd.

“We are not going to be intimidated by these acts, because there is no bully that can shatter our resolve as a country to stand up against this pernicious hate.”

Toronto city councillors James Pasternak and Brad Bradford spoke about their efforts to request the province to establish ‘bubble zones’ that would keep political protests at a distance from faith-based institutions. The motion failed to pass at a council meeting last week.

 “We’re not finished asking for bubble zones in front of our vulnerable institutions. To those who thought this debate was over, we’ll be back,” Pasternak told the crowd to cheers.

Parents dropping their children off at the school Monday morning said it was hard to tell their children about the shooting—and to see the boarded-up window that had been pierced by a bullet.

“It’s difficult to swallow,” said Rivky Gansburg, who has three daughters at the school. “My daughter’s classroom, her Grade 8 classroom, is right above where the shooting happened. I often pull up to school during the day and the girls are at that window, waving, smiling during a break.

“There’s no reason why anybody should attack children who are coming to learn and go about their day.”

Tamar Liman said it was frightening to hear the news about the shooting on the weekend, but by Monday morning, encouraged by the rally, she said her children were not worried about returning to school,

Politicians, including Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, Solicitior-General Michael Kerzner, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Toronto city councillor James Pasternak speak at a rally, May 27, 2024 after a Chabad girls’ school was shot the previous Shabbat.

“I think they have faith in the police, faith in God and faith in the community to stand together,” she said.

The shooting at the school is the most recent attack on a Jewish institution in Toronto. Earlier this month, the windows and doors at Synagogue Kehillat Shaarei Torah were broken in an attack. It was the second time the Orthodox synagogue had been vandalized within weeks.

Two schools and a community building in Montreal were targeted by a shooter in November. Last week, Montreal police announced they had arrested a suspect in connection with the shooting at Yeshiva Gedola, a Montreal school.

“This needs to be a wake-up call for our leaders and for broader society,” said Noah Shack, UJA Federation vice-president for countering hate and antisemitism. “For a school to be shot at is unconscionable.

“Antisemitism is diminished when those in positions of authority speak out against it. You saw a lot of that here today, and what we need is more of that from our leaders.

“We need them to take clear positions that this will not stand… The time for equivocation needs to be over now.”