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Police want the suspect arrested at the scene referred for psychiatric evaluation.

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“When I saw it, my heart dropped,” said Rabbi Adam Scheier of seeing swastikas painted on the Shaar Hashomayim doors. “It was like a punch in the gut — an absolute moment of devastation.” (Photo: B’nai Brith Canada)

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An alert security guard at one of Canada’s largest synagogues interrupted an antisemite defacing the doors with swastikas on Wednesday afternoon, and the suburban Montreal congregation was later told the 28 year old graffiti-spreading suspect had a filled jerry can beside him when police arrived to put him under arrest.

In a letter sent out to members of the Shaar Hashomayim Congregation and two day schools operating on the site in Westmount, Quebec, Rabbi Adam Scheier wrote:

“Today, our synagogue was the target of an anti-Jewish act. At around 2 PM, a man walked up to the Cote St. Antoine doors and spray-painted swastikas on them. The Shaar’s security guard, Alex Kuczma, saw this on the surveillance cameras and immediately went to apprehend the perpetrator. Alex then called for help, and within a short time the police arrived and arrested the man.”

The community was told, “The perpetrator had a cannister of gasoline with him. At this time, we don’t have any reason to fear further attacks against our synagogue building, and we will remain vigilant as always. The graffiti has been removed and the man is in police custody.”

Montreal police told Global News that the hate crime unit was investigating, and were going to ask for a psychiatric evaluation at a court hearing on Thursday. However, spokesperson Raphael Bergeron “would not confirm reports the man was carrying a gas canister.”

On Thursday Adam Riga, was charged with:
Uttering threats to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property, and possession of incendiary material.

In an interview with CTV Montreal, Rabbi Scheier explained the scene. “I was actually walking to another meeting and was maybe 100 metres away from the synagogue. I quickly turned around and when I got there, the perpetrator had already been put in the back of a police car.”

The rabbi told CTV that video footage showed the suspect “putting the can of gasoline down and [taking] out the spray paint. That was the first thing he did and thankfully the last thing.”

Condemnation of the Nazi-themed threat to Jewish safety was swift and came from across the region and the world.

Westmount Mayor Christina Smith tweeted, “The symbols of hate and evil that were spray painted on the Shaar Hashomayim have no place in our community. I stand with my friends and neighbours at the Shaar and the entire Jewish community condemning this abhorrent act. I am heartbroken that this happened in our city.”

The Member of Parliament for the area, Rachel Bendayan of the ruling Liberal government, tweeted “This despicable act of #antisemitism took place right here in #Montreal. Hate and demagoguery against any one group is hatred against us all. We must come together and denounce these acts which have no place in Canada.”

Later on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the Twitter chorus of outrage about the attack and stated his solidarity with the victims.

“This is despicable,” Trudeau wrote. “I condemn this vile act in the strongest terms possible and stand united with Congregation @ShaarHashomayim, Rabbi @AdamScheier, and Jewish Canadians across the country. We must always denounce antisemitic hate, no matter when or where it arises.”

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B’nai Brith Canada vowed to take a pro-active role in the matter with the police “to do whatever we can to ensure that justice is served in this case,” said Harvey Levine, Quebec regional director, in a press release.

Levine told Global News, “We hope that the individual will be charged to the full extent of the law for a hate-motivated crime. It’s disgusting and our organization is horrified. Every time there is an incident like this when the Jewish community is attacked like this, we feel like we are attacked as a community.”

“This incident is another jarring reminder of the constant need for vigilance in protecting our Jewish communal institutions,” said BB CEO Michael Mostyn. “Antisemitism can rear its ugly head anywhere and any time, and we must always do our part to combat it when it does.”

To the lone Canadian-born member of the Israeli parliament, the threat was deeply personal.

 “This is my shul. My children’s school,” said MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh. “The place that was for years our home away from home, where we prayed and played.

“It is the shul in which Leonard Cohen stood by his grandfather. The place that inspired his legacy and lyrics, from ‘Hallelujah’ to ‘Hineni’.”

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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