Ontario announces new grants to help faith groups cover security costs and to fight antisemitism

Graffiti at Toronto's Beth Sholom Synagogue

A new $25-million grant program to help Ontario houses of worship and community centres cover security costs was announced by the provincial government on Feb. 3.

The program is intended to provide up to $10,000 in a one-time grant for enhanced security or training. Eligible expenses include installing security equipment, completion of security assessments and training for organizations to respond to a hate-motivated incident.

The announcement was welcomed by the Jewish community, especially after a hostage-taking at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas last month.

 “Institutions, including synagogues and Jewish community centres, spend millions of dollars on security measures every year so Jewish Ontarians can gather safely,” Noah Shack, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said in a press release. “Investments in security planning, infrastructure and training save lives.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was held hostage for 11 hours by an armed man, credited security training he had received with helping him to manage the situation and form a plan that allowed him and the three other hostages to escape unharmed.

On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Ontario government announced grants to further Holocaust education and address antisemitism.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center received $148,000 to develop bilingual classroom resources on ways to recognize and address antisemitism.  The programs will include workshops and webinars for parents and students, according to a news release from the province.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs received $150,000 to develop bilingual classroom resources for students in Grades 5 to 8 on antisemitism. Parent resources will also be created on “how antisemitism manifests on social media and online gaming.”

“Over the past months we have observed a disturbing increase of hate crimes targeting Jewish students, families and synagogues,” said Stephen Lecce, minister of education, announcing the grants.

Jews are the most frequent targets of religious-based hate crimes, according to Statistics Canada. According to the annual B’nai Brith Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, cases rose by 18 percent in 2020, from the previous year.