A Montreal synagogue was firebombed Nov. 7, and a school has been shot up several times since the Israel-Hamas war began. Photo from Facebook

Quebec bishops condemn targeting of Jewish institutions

  • November 15, 2023

In a week that saw Montreal Jewish institutions targeted in multiple acts of violent intimidation, Quebec bishops have issued a message of solidarity with the Jewish community.

In a Nov. 8 letter to “our Jewish sisters and brothers,” Bishop Martin Laliberté of Trois-Rivières, president of the Quebec Assembly of Catholic Bishops (AECQ), wrote, “It is with sadness and concern that we learn through the media that members and institutions of the Jewish community are the object of threats and acts of vandalism. My fellow Catholic bishops of Quebec join me in condemning these senseless actions.”

The letter was written after a Nov. 7 synagogue firebombing and an altercation the following day at Concordia University that resulted in three injuries and one arrest. Police were called on Nov. 9 to two Montreal Jewish schools after reports of shots fired into the buildings outside of school hours.

Montreal police say there have been 73 reported incidents of hate or intimidation against the Jewish community since the Oct. 7 Israeli massacre and start of the Hamas-Israel war, and 25 reported incidents against the Muslim community.

Fr. Bernard Montpetit was one of the first locals to walk over to Congregation Beth Tikvah after the news broke of the Nov. 7 attack. The synagogue is less than a kilometre from St. Luke Parish in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, where Montpetit is pastor.

“It is really close from here, and I figured I would just go to express solidarity,” Monpetit told The Catholic Register.

Montpetit was able to speak with Henry Topas, regional director of B’nai Brith Canada and the synagogue cantor.

“I just told him who I was,” said Montpetit, “from which church I was from and to say I was sorry. These things should not happen, there are some sacred spaces, places of worship, hospitals and schools, where these things should never happen.”

That sentiment was echoed by Imam Abdul Hai Patel, founder of the Canadian Council of Imams and current president of the Canadian Multifaith Federation.

“Everyone, myself included, is saddened by the unprovoked attacks on any human being or any prayer facilities or schools,” said Patel.

“I don’t understand why violence raises its ugly face against people of faith in Canada every time there is an international crisis. This is uncalled for and, as the Prime Minister said, ‘It is not who we are.’ ”

When asked if there were voices from within the Canadian Muslim community advocating restraint, Patel responded that “there are voices encouraging calm, but the media doesn’t cover it and community voices can only go so far.”

Shortly before the Quebec bishops issued their letter, The Register spoke with Richard Marceau, former Quebec MP and vice-president, External Affairs at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Marceau said that the Jewish community has not felt strong support from Catholic leadership in the wake of Oct. 7. He singled out a statement made by Bishop Scott McCaig of the Military Ordinariate, and an article written by Amanda Achtman and published in The Register, as “rays of light of support from the Catholic Church that to us are principled and right in a disappointing overall reaction.”

“At a time where Jewish schools are being shot at, at a time where Molotov cocktails are thrown at synagogues, when young students at Concordia are being threatened and attacked, when a rabbi in Ottawa was threatened, and, I obviously could keep going,” said Marceau.

“It is time for the entire faith community to speak up.”

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