Violence or vandalism? As tensions rise, a debate over how much Jewish anxiety is justified

Posters that have been put up—and torn down—by both sides in Washington, D.C., the week of the historic March for Israel on Nov. 15, 2023. (Photo by Ted Eytan/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Antisemitic crimes have been on the rise across the world in the past month, but Montreal in particular has been rocked by sudden violent acts: two bullets were, on separate occasions, shot at the Yeshiva Gedola elementary school, and molotov cocktails were thrown at a Federation building and synagogue. Subsequently, security has been top of mind for the local Jewish community, with people feeling too anxious to send their kids to school.

But context does matter. Is a gunshot still a gunshot if it’s fired late at night, when a building is empty? Or is it, as host Avi Finegold argues, tantamount to graffiti: an act of vandalism, albeit with a potentially lethal tool? He and Phoebe Maltz Bovy debate whether the Jewish community’s feeling of insecurity is overblown—and whether it’s justified to be scared of someone walking down the street wearing a keffiyeh.


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast, donating to The CJN and subscribing to the podcast’s Substack.