A Canadian human rights organization warns that Jewish Canadians are feeling vulnerable following a series of antisemitic incidents across the country.
Tensions have been rising globally between supporters from either side of the Israel – Hamas conflict, but the recent surge in violence expressed towards members of the Jewish faith has the community concerned for their safety.
Rich Robertson, B’nai Brith Canada’s manager of research, told True North that Jewish Canadians are experiencing unprecedented anxiety.
“Our community has gone from a period of devastation and mourning following the terrorist attack on the morning of the seventh, to facing unprecedented anxiety ever experienced by the Canadian diaspora.”
“While antisemitism is nothing new for the community,” Robertson said. “The current Israel-Hamas conflict is bringing anti-Jewish and antisemitic sentiments to the forefront.”
B’nai Brith operates an app, hotline and a website that allows Jewish Canadians to report and record acts or experiences of antisemitism.
Since the October 7 terrorist attack on civilians in Israel there has been an alarming increase of incidents directed towards Jewish Canadians.
A few nights ago, shots were fired at two Jewish schools in Montreal, molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue and Jewish centre, threats were made against a Hebrew school in Toronto, and there have been calls to boycott Jewish owned businesses.
To address the safety concerns of Jewish Canadians, officials should “mitigate incitement at pro-Palestinian rallies,” Robertson said.
“It is the incitement at these rallies that are causing anxiety, not the rallies themselves,” Robertson said.
“These rallies are fueling incitement, and have demonstrated to be the opposite of the peaceful protests that they attest to be.”
A few weeks ago, a group of pro-Palestinian demonstators swarmed the Israeli coffeehouse Aroma while slapping “boycott” stickers on its windows.
Last month, at a demonstration in Montreal, an imam, in Arabic, condemned “Zionist aggressors” and called on Allah to “kill the enemies of the people of Gaza and to spare none of them.”
Secondly, the “virulent spread of misinformation and miscategorization of the Israel-Hamas and the Israeli-Palestinian debate on campuses across the country, should not be ignored,” Robertson said.
Madi Foglia, an 18-year-old Barrie resident said, that a recent pro-Palestinian rally in the city “had the Jewish community questioning the safety they thought they had here.”
“Our community members asked their Rabbi if they could move their Mezuzah (a small decoration attached to doorframes at the entrance of a home) to the inside of their doors, to avoid being identified as Jewish homes,” Foglia said.
Last month Foglia had been putting up posters of missing and kidnapped Israeli women and children, when she noticed someone taking them down. Folgia recorded the incident, and the individual was later identified as Barrie BIA employee Sarah Jensen.
Jensen can be heard in the video saying she was removing the posters, because they did not “bring light to the other side of the situation at all.”
Jensen later issued an apology for removing the posters, but Foglia said the incident speaks to a larger issue of misinformation about the situation.
“It’s really a war of misinformation,” said Foglia. “There is this very twisted narrative that Jews are colonizers, that Hamas is only resisting occupation as a justification for the violence committed against communities world wide.”
Foglia hoped that putting up posters would help fight against some of the false narratives of the conflict. She believed posters of missing and kidnapped children would catch the attention of people walking by.
While many Jewish Canadians are taking measures to hide their faith, Foglia says she will not hide her identity, or stop putting up posters of kidnapped Israeli children.
“Historically when we are scared for our well being, when we have to hide who we are, we disappear, and no one pays attention to Jewish suffering.”