Montreal Jewish school targeted by gunfire for 2nd time in less than a week
Posted November 12, 2023 10:54 am.
Last Updated November 12, 2023 6:26 pm.
For the second time in a week, a Jewish school in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood was hit by gunfire.
At around 5 a.m. Sunday morning, Montreal police received several 911 calls about gunshots heard close to the Yeshiva Gedola school on Deacon Road near Van Horne Avenue, SPVM spokesperson Caroline Chèvrefils told CityNews.
When police arrived, they say they found projectile impacts on the front of the school and shell casings on the ground.
The SPVM verified that no one was in the school and confirmed there were no injuries.
Police were told by witnesses that a vehicle left the scene quickly after the gunfire. Investigators are looking into possible surveillance cameras nearby.
The streets parallel to the school were closed off Sunday morning as the investigation continues. No arrests have been made.
“We’re concerned for the safety of our children,” said Mikael Ohana, whose children attend the school. “These are children that are being affected here. They’re not graffiti-painting. These are real bullets in a real school. And children are there, from babies to teenagers.”
It’s the second time this week the Yeshiva Gedola school was targeted, according to police. A single round was found to have been fired at one of the school’s doors on Thursday.
Montreal’s Talmud Torah Elementary was also targeted by gunfire Thursday.
Those incidents followed suspected arson attempts at a West Island synagogue — Congregation Beth Tikvah — and a building containing the Federation CJA office last week. Police say incendiary objects were thrown.
There was also an altercation between two groups of supporters linked to the Israel-Hamas war at Concordia on Wednesday.
Henry Topas, the Quebec regional director of B’nai Brith Canada, is calling it a “progression” of events against the Jewish community.
“We have been ground zero and we feel unfairly targeted, and we feel it’s not right the incitement has gone on so long that people feel free — whoever they are — to have committed these kinds of acts of terror locally,” Topas said. “But we will not be cowed by them.”
‘Jewish community is under attack’: Plante
Speaking to reporters outside the school Sunday morning, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said “the Jewish community is under attack right now.”
“We can disagree, we can think out loud, we can protest — it’s a complex conflict that is happening at the other side of the sea, absolutely — but we can have those conversations with respect and not using fear. And absolutely not having this kind of violent act towards a community, the Jewish community. That is wrong.
“My message for those who think this is a way to spread their message: it is not… Nobody thinks it’s OK to shoot an elementary school to pass a message.”
Plante vowed that the Montreal police would find those responsible and “there will be consequences.”
“This is not the Montreal that we want,” she added. “This is not the city that we believe in, with the values of inclusion and respect.”
Earlier in the morning, in a post on X, Plante called the latest incident “a repulsive act.”
In a statement, Quebec Premier François Legault said “every effort will be made to find and punish the culprits.”
“My heart goes out to the Jewish community of Quebec, once again the victim of an attack on one of its schools,” said Legault.
“The Quebec nation is a peaceful nation. Let us not import the hatred and violence that we see elsewhere in the world.”
There were 48 reported hate crimes against the Jewish community on the Montreal territory between Oct. 7 and Oct. 31, since the Israel-Hamas war began.
Lionel Perez, the spokesperson for Yeshiva Gedola, says action must go beyond political statements and condemnation.
“We’re also asking to ensure that and while we appreciate every single elected official that has condemned the attack since Thursday and that are present here again today, we need them to ensure that they give all the means to the SPVM,” said Perez.
“While yes, we are very concerned about these turn of events, the school will not digress from its primary objective and that is to educate our children to be able to provide them with the necessary secular and religious studies.”
‘A dark moment’ for Montreal’s Jewish community, rabbi says
Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation called the latest incident “shocking.”
“The repeated attacks on the Jewish community this past week are horrifying,” he said Sunday morning. “No one has seen anything like this and the community is obviously very distressed about this.
“This is a dark moment in the story of the Jewish community here in Montreal.”
Poupko says those responsible will not scare the city’s Jewish community.
“It is the goal of those who do these things to keep to terrorize and to frighten,” he said. “That goal will not succeed. The Jewish community will continue to function with pride – with heightened vigilance, but with pride and determination. We’re not going to allow cowardly acts to determine how we behave and how we organize and how we gather.”
The Beth Israel Beth Aaron rabbi’s connection to Montreal’s Yeshiva Gedola school is personal.
“My two sons attended this institution,” he said. “It’s an important and a vital institution here in this neighbourhood and part of the Jewish community for many years and we’re living again through a terrible time.”
Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, the mayor of Côte-Des-Neiges–NDG, says police will increase their presence around the school and other religious place in the borough and around Montreal.
She adds she was “absolutely horrified” to learn of the shooting.
“I really want to ask every leader of every or any community to really make sure that they send a message to their people and to ask everybody to calm down,” Kasoki Katahwa said. “Because this, what happened today, it’s not Montreal. We don’t want people in Montreal, we don’t want Montrealers to feel unsafe in their city. This is absolutely unacceptable.
“And we’re going to make sure that we remain in contact with the different communities, with the SPVM, and we’re going to make sure that the people who are doing this, that they’re going to answer for their actions.”
The shooting was also denounced by the Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF).
“FMC-CMF urges the SPVM for an intensive investigation to get the perpetrators to justice to restore the sense of security to the city’s streets.
“FMC-CMF urges stakeholders to avoid political exploitation of hate crimes that lead to the spread of rumours and create a state of tension between communities. Creating fear and bigotry shall not benefit the cohesion of our societies.
“FMC-CMF calls for unity against all sorts of hate and violence in all its shapes.”