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Vandalism caused $85,000 of damage over two months ago to Young Israel of Chomedey Synagogue in Laval.

Back of the vandalized Young Israel of Chomedey Synagogue after vandalism.

Irwin Cotler



by Rhonda Spivak, B.A. L.L.B, January 24, 2011


Editor's note: This article below  was published in the  Jerusalem Post on Monday January 24, 2011 at

It has been published on numerous other websites including:


Montreal Jewish leader: Vandalism not always made public

Community members unaware of many attacks; security c’tee head says institution targeted earlier this month didn’t want act publicized.







 [Editor’s note: In an upcoming issue in the innipeg Jewish Review there will be an editorial written on the subject of whether it is advisable or not for Jewish leadership  to self-censor and not report acts of vandalism against Jewish institutions to the media, the Jewish public, or their Member of Parliament for fear of triggering “copy cats” or not wanting to give culprits satisfaction of being in the media.] 

This past Sunday five synagogues-- Beth Rambam, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem [TBDJ], Beth Zion in Côte St. Luc, and Shaarey Zedek Synagogues in Côte St. Luc and Dorshei Emet synagogue in Hampstead sustained  damages when local vandals threw rocks at their windows. The Yavne Academy in Côte St. Luc was also vandalized.

Two months ago, the Young Israel of Chomedey Synagogue in Laval was targeted when vandals led a garden hose into a pipe that led into the building’s oil tank and flooded the building overnight, which was reported by CTV.  Nearly 2,300 literr of oil spilled over onto the back lawn, contaminating the site and causing extensive damage to the synagogue  to the amount of over $85,000.

“At this point, no suspects have been arrested and the investigation is ongoing,” Simon Delorme, a Montreal police spokesperson told the Jewish Tribune. “We do not know how many suspects there are, however, our investigation team is looking into surveillance videotape from one of the institutions.”

As of January 19, the Jewish Tribune reported that “ police could not say whether Sunday’s events are related to the October act of vandalism at the Young Israel of Chomedey Synagogue, however, they did not rule out the possibility.

According to an article in the Canadian Jewish News   

by David Lazarus, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, chair of Federation CJA’s security Coordinating Committee told the CJN “that incidents of vandalism have been occurring on a more regular basis, perhaps once a month, but they have gone unreported for fear of triggering “copycats” or creating, ‘an unreasonable degree of fear.’ [emphasis added] 

The Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke with Rabbi Puopko who clarified that all incidents of vandalism in the last 18 months have been reported to the police, but not all have been reported to the Jewish and general media. This means that members of Montreal’s Jewish community do not know of all of the incidents of vandalism that have occurred in their own community.

Rabbi Puopko said it is a “judgment call” regarding which incidents are released to the media by his committee and which aren’t, and this is decided “on a case by case basis.”

When asked whether police investigators  were the ones who have requested certain incidents of vandalism not be reported to the media (for fear of jeopardizing an ongoing investigation) Rabbi Puopko said, “No,” and clarified that it was Federation CJA’s security Co-ordinating Committee, which he chaired that made the decision not to report certian incidents to the public.

When asked about the composition of his committee, Rabbi Puopko, said his Committee “is a partnership between [Montreal] Federation, CJA and Canadian Jewish Congress Quebec Region.”

When asked specifically how many incidents of vandalism have not been made public, Rabbi Puopko said he couldn’t give “a specific number.” He said that administrators, and school principals were told of a given event so the institutions themselves knew so as to take precautionary measures.

When asked why a decision would be made by his committee not to let the public know of a given incident, Rabbi Puopko said that “we don’t want to grant them [the perpetrators]  victory,” and “we don’t want to give them the satisfaction” of having them be able to read about their act "in the newspaper.”

However, when asked whether by not reporting to the public one prevents the ability of having someone come forward to give information about a perpetrator or give relevant evidence, Rabbi Poupko said, “I see your point,” and noted that  "these things are a judgment call,” one which reasonable people can disagree about.

The incidents of vandalism, including incidents unreported to the media, have taken place in the riding of veteran Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian Minister of Justice. Cotler is the Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism which just concluded its second international conference in Ottawa last November.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke with Irwin Cotler on January 18, 2011 to ask whether he was informed by Rabbi Puopko’s committee or anyone else of these incidents of vandalism against Jewish institutions in his riding that were not reported to the media. Cotler replied, “No, I wasn’t.”

When the Winnipeg Jewish Review noted  this to Rabbi Puopko, he said, “That may be.”

David Lazarus of the Canadian Jewish News reported in his article that “One source told The CJN that about two weeks ago, “a major community institution” [in Montreal’s Jewish community] was hit by vandals, but the incident went unreported.”

The Winnipeg Jewish Review clarified with Rabbi Puopko that the incident, like all other incidents was reported to the police, but it wasn’t reported to the media (including the Jewish media). When asked why this was not reported, Rabbi Puopko replied, “Managers of that [major community] institution” didn’t want it to be reported to the media, so his committee honoured that request and didn’t release the information.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Rabbi Puopko on January 19, 2011 whether he could now disclose the name of this institution, especially in light of all the recent string of attacks. He responded, “No I can’t. They have asked me not to tell.”

When asked specifically whether he was told about the act of vandalism some two weeks ago against “a major community institution” referred to in the CJN , Cotler said, “No, I wasn’t.”

“Police need to dedicate more resources to the investigation,” Rabbi Poupko told the Canadian Jewish News.

Cotler told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he had set up a series of meetings with the Montreal police chief, and institutions that had been targeted. Cotler   met with local Police Commander Sylvain Bissonnette on January 19, who had brought in a detective and additional resources to investigate the acts of vandalism and who is working closely with local officials and the community. There is a working assumption that the perpetrator may be a lone individual.

When asked whether his committee had notified B'nai Brith Canada about the incidents that were reported to police, but not to the media, Rabbi Poupko said his committee had not done so, nor did they have any intention of doing so.

Frank Dimant, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that this means that these incidents will not be part of the statistical data that comprises Bnai Brith’s Annual Audit of Antisemitic incidents in Canada " which is forwarded to the University of Tel-Aviv," which compiles world data relating to antisemitic incidents.

Stacey Starkman, media relations for the Friends of Simon Weisenthal Center for Holocaust Studies [FSWC] also told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that her organization did not know about “unreported” incidents. When asked why those incidents weren’t reported to FSWC, which has an office in Toronto, Rabbi Paupko said  FSWC  doesn’t  have a  large presence in Montreal.

Dimant told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he did not know which " major community institution" in Montreal had been vandalized two weeks ago, nor did Heidi Oppen Quebec Director of B'nai Brith Canada .

Dimant said in his view all Jewish organizations combating antisemitism ought to be notified of  all incidents of vandalism against Jewish institutions reported to the police.

Rabbi Poupko noted that the media had not shown any interest in a couple of incidents that  his committee had decided to report to the media.

When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review whether, in light of the latest string of attacks, his committee would now report any  and all new incidents of vandalism/ antisemitism , Rabbi Poupko, said in the wake of what has happened he presumed  that any thing new would be reported to the public.

President of  Young Israel of Chomedey Synagogue, Frank Cwilich told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he wasn’t aware of the other incidents of vandalism referred to by Rabbi Poupko in the CJN that were not reported to the media. Nor was he aware of “the major community institution”’ that was vandalized two weeks ago.

Cwilich said that his synagogue suffered “$85,000 of damages” some two months ago, and “our [the synagogue’s] insurance only covered $25,000.”  Cwilich added, “There was an amazing response from the community. We received money from a synagogue in Vancouver, and we also received money from people of all faiths, including local churches who gave money to help repair the damages.”

Dimant urged all institutions in Montreal to get the proper security cameras in place and urged them to avail themselves of any Federal money available for this purpose.

Montreal police visited the five sites Sunday, and have taken local security-camera footage for their investigation. According to the Canadian Jewish News, Rabbi Poupko indicated that a video camera at one of the institutions– showed two men emerging from a car, throwing the rock and then leaving.

Rabbi Poupko also told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he expected that all institutions would get the necessary security equipment and have it put up in proper locations, if they hadn’t already done so.

In March 2009, criminals broke into Ahavas Yisroel Viznitz Synagogue in the Outremont neighbourhood, stealing objects of worship and marking swastikas on the bima and around the central platform of the shrine.

In September 2009, three Cote St. Luc synagogues had their windows shattered by rocks, apparently also by two men in a car.
 On January 17, Cotler,  supported by  the Leader of the  Opposition Michael Ignatieff and the entire Liberal caucus,issued the following statement:
"The concerted assault on Jewish religious, educational and communal institutions - targeted precisely because they are Jewish - constitutes a clear anti-Semitic hate crime."

 "On Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada [January 17] - a day set aside to reflect and act upon the heroism of Canada's first honorary citizen - who stood up, confronted and combated the worst of hatred and prevailed - these attacks should act as a call upon us to mobilize against the forces of hatred and anti-Semitism." 

Also on January 17,  Ignatieff and Cotler issued a joint statement which said in part: 

"This government must do more beyond short term projects to help provide adequate safety and security provisions for religious communities, and it must work closely with the RCMP and CSIS so hate crimes in Canada can be eradicated once and for all."

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, condemning the recent acts of vandalism in a statement on January 17:

“Any act of vandalism is deplorable. But vandalism against houses of worship of any faith, and places of learning, are particularly cowardly and hateful. I am also profoundly concerned that it was Jewish institutions that were targeted in these attacks. It reminds us that the threat of anti-Semitism still very much exists here in Canada."

“The Government of Canada will continue to lead the fight against anti-Semitism, a uniquely durable and pernicious form of hatred.”

Quebec Jewish Congress, and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC)  denounced the vandalism.

B’nai Brith Quebec deplored the attacks and called on police to review past attacks”which may have been dismissed as isolated examples of vandalism.”

The Canadian Jewish News also reported that Rabbi Poupko said he has heard concerns that groups who have been calling for local boycotts of Israeli-made goods might be “riling up extremists” to the point of committing such acts.

Recently, demonstrations have occurred at Le Marcheur shoe shop, spearheaded by Palestinian and Jewish Unity, a Montreal-based pro-Palestinian group, because it sells Beautiful shoes, a brand made in Israel.

Amir Khadir, a member of Quebec National Assembly joined a boycott of a Montreal shoe store, and made no apologies for asking shoppers to boycott the Le Marcheur shoe shopwhich is in his own riding, or electoral district.

"Just because a business is in my riding, I am not going to abandon my principles," the Iranian-born Khadir told the Montreal Gazette.

In 2008, Khadir came under fire for throwing a shoe at a picture of then-U.S. President George W. Bush at a rally in Montreal. A citizen's complaint against him alleged the gesture "encouraged violence" and did not live up to the "dignity and responsibilities of a Member of the National Assembly."
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.