Sept. 15, 2006
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Community organizations fear targeted attack.
JANICE ARNOLD CANADIAN JEWISH NEWS
The perpetrator of a Molotov cocktail attack on a Chassidic boys'
school in Montreal over Labor Day weekend remains at large despite
the act having been videotaped by the school's surveillance camera
and despite a $5,000 reward offered by an anonymous donor for information
leading to his arrest.
School and Jewish community officials told a press conference last
week that they're confident and grateful police are putting the
necessary resources into their investigation.
Police have so far not labelled the incident a hate crime, because
of the absence of evidence such as graffiti or phone calls, and
are treating it as arson. But Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith
Canada and Toldos school leaders are convinced the perpetrator deliberately
targeted a Jewish institution.
Asked if he thought there was a connection between the incident
and the recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair
of the Montreal Jewish Security Advisory Committee, told reporters
that it's "a fair question to wonder whether the gathering
of 15,000 Quebecers under the flag of Hezbollah unfortunately
further legitimized by the presence of politicians creates
an atmosphere where fanatics draw the conclusion that violence against
Jews is somehow acceptable."
Poupko was referring to the Aug. 6 demonstration against the recent
war in which three politicians Bloc Québécois
leader Gilles Duceppe, Parti Québécois leader Andre
Boisclair and federal Liberal MP Denis Coderre participated
Duceppe was one of the first politicians to condemn the incident
and affirm that Quebecers do not tolerate any such "hateful
act whoever it is directed at, or for whatever reason." Boisclair
soon after denounced the incident as well.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest said: "No one can determine at
this point if it was motivated by hate. But nonetheless I think
it is important that all Quebec see very clearly on this issue that
we are a society of tolerance, that we are a society that encourages
free speech and that we should not and cannot tolerate these kinds
Federal Liberal leadership candidate and Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison
visited the school to express his revulsion against what he called
an act of "terrorism" against children and education.
NDP leader Jack Layton likewise stated: "How could someone
be so callous as to attempt to strike terror into the hearts of
Alex Werzberger, president of the Coalition of Chassidic Organizations
of Outremont, pointed out there is an Armenian church and school
two blocks away from Toldos, as well as a French school on a nearby
block, which suggests to him that the perpetrator had "his
pick of schools" but went for the Jewish one. "You can't
put any other spin on it than anti-Semitism."
Werzberger said there hasn't been a serious anti-Semitic incident
in Outremont for a long time.
"Other than someone yelling 'damned Jews,' which is almost
a daily occurrence, there has been nothing," he said.
After the firebombing of a United Talmud Torah school in Montreal
in April 2004, Combined Jewish Appeal raised $2.3 million specifically
for security, and all 40 Jewish school and day-care sites in the
city were assessed by a security professional. Toldos was found
to be at risk and CJA heavily subsidized the installation of a surveillance
camera. The school, located in a former industrial area that is
now mainly home to condominiums, has been defaced with swastikas
in the past. CJC Quebec Region chair Jeffrey Boro said it will be
determined if additional security at the school is needed. Poupko
said the incident proved that the security structure in place worked
well and the community's investment paid off.
Toldos has about 250 boys from age three to 16, Mayer said. There
are about 200 Skver families in Montreal.