Hasidic Montreal’s emergency response team is on the case of some stolen shtreimels.
On the night of July 25, burglars broke in to the home of a Hasidic family in the Outremont section of the Canadian city. While the occupants slept, the thieves made off with two shtreimels, the fur hats worn by Hasidim on the Sabbath. A bekishe, or traditional robe with fancy patterns worn by Hasidic men on holidays, was also taken.
The theft of nothing but the Hasidic clothing has set off alarms. Although the intruders went through drawers and closets, they took nothing else from the home, not even the silver candlesticks and other valuables that were out in the open.
The timing of the theft also concerns the community. With the conflict between Israel and Hamas raging in Gaza, members worry the thieves may be enemies of Jews intending to disguise themselves in the Hasidic garb to infiltrate the community and do harm.
The matter has been taken so seriously that late last week, rabbinic leaders in Montreal issued a ruling that Jews are permitted to use the telephone on Shabbat to call the community’s emergency response team, Chaverim/Shomrim, or the police with any information about suspicious activity.
Following the ruling, a poster in Hebrew and Yiddish asking people to call if they see any suspicious persons wearing a shtreimel and bekishe was circulated electronically. It warned community members not to waste time looking for Chaverim/Shomrim members, and to call an emergency hotline number immediately — even on Shabbat.
“The concern was that it could have been Islamists trying to dress as Hasidim and potentially walk in to a shul,” said Zvi Hershcovich, editor of the Bill 613 blog.
According to Berry Eisner, head of Chaverim/Shomrim, the Montreal police are working closely with the Jewish community to solve the reported crime, as well as to provide security for local Jewish institutions.
“Last Shabbos there was unmarked police security at each shul in Outremont,” said Eisner. “According to our intel, if anything should happen, God forbid, it would happen in Outrement.”
Community leaders are trying to avoid panic, but at the same time, they want people to be aware of their surroundings.
“We hope the clothing items were stolen for a game, and not for evil. But we can’t take any chances with the war going on,” said Eisner.
“But ultimately, it is only Hashem who is the one who can keep us safe,” said Eisner.