Police haven't said attack on empty building is hate crime

Toronto leaders rally at Jewish girls’ school attacked by gunmen on Shabbat

Mayor decries ‘despicable antisemitic act’; Jewish leader: ‘Predictable consequence of seven months of Jews and Israelis being dehumanized’

Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak speaks at a solidarity rally outside the Bais Chaya Mushka school, May 27, 2024. (Screenshot via X, @PasternakTO)
Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak speaks at a solidarity rally outside the Bais Chaya Mushka school, May 27, 2024. (Screenshot via X, @PasternakTO)

Toronto’s mayor and other local officials joined a rally at a local Jewish girls’ school that was hit by gunfire on Saturday.

No one was at Bais Chaya Mushka, which is part of a network of Chabad-Lubavitch schools, at 5 a.m. Saturday morning when two masked suspects emerged from a dark vehicle and fired multiple shots at the building. The gunfire left a bullet hole in a window of the building and caused other minor damage, but no injuries were reported.

On Monday, as Bais Chaya Mushka was open for classes, a crowd turned out for a rally in support of the school.

“It was pretty shocking, it was something that’s totally unexpected,” Rabbi Yaakov Vidal, principal of Chaya Mushka Elementary, told the Canadian Jewish News. “But we’ve got to move forward and make sure the kids can come back to school.”

He added, “Parents are concerned, but we’re grateful to have all the security we have here, the police force, and the reassurance that they’re going to be here with us until safety is restored.”

Representatives from the school did not respond to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s request for comment.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow attended the Monday rally along with a number of other provincial and city officials as well as Jewish leaders.

Chow called the shooting a “despicable, antisemitic act,” adding, “it was a disgusting attempt to intimidate the community, to fill people with fear.”

Law enforcement are investigating the shooting, including hate crimes investigators, the Toronto Police Service said in a statement.

Police have not yet determined whether the incident is a hate crime. Police released video of the suspects’ vehicle, and said there would be “an increased police presence in the area, as well as outside of schools and synagogues.”

Bais Chaya Mushka had recently spent roughly $180,000, partially from government grants, on security upgrades including armored glass, according to CJN.

Vidal credited a perimeter fence built around the school as a “huge deterrent,” telling Yahoo News, “[The gunmen] had to stand behind it, they could not enter the property. And we’re grateful for that as well.”

At the rally, Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak invoked his previous advocacy for legislation to create “statutory policing protections for places of worship, faith-based schools, and faith-based institutions,” telling the crowd, “we didn’t quite get there.” He vowed to continue advocating for those measures.

The shooting follows a reported rise in antisemitic incidents in Canada according to an audit published last month by Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada. In November, shots were fired at two Orthodox Jewish schools in Montreal.

Antisemitic incidents have surged worldwide in the months since October 7, when the terror group Hamas launched a cross-border assault into southern Israel from Gaza, killing some 1,200 people and taking 252 hostages, sparking a bloody war that’s been ongoing since.

Police said Wednesday they were investigating after a Jewish school in Montreal was fired on. Police said at least one bullet hit the Yeshiva Ketana, which serves children in the city’s Belz community, but there were no injuries, the CBC reported.

According to Yeshiva World News, the gunman was captured on surveillance footage, though his vehicle was not. Authorities believe the shooting took place Tuesday night or Wednesday, according to reports.

In March, a Jewish film festival in Hamilton, Ontario, was postponed due to fears of antisemitism, despite objections from the local Jewish federation.

On Sunday, at Montreal’s McGill University, activists hanged an effigy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a black-and-white horizontal striped uniform above the main campus gates.

“As Jews, we know that violent words lead to violent actions,” Daniel Held, the Toronto Jewish federation’s chief program officer said at the rally. “This weekend’s shooting was the predictable consequence of seven months of Jews and Israelis being dehumanized, being discriminated against, being demonized right here in the city.”

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