June 21st, 2024

Vancouver synagogue holding service after arson attack

By The Canadian Press on June 1, 2024.

A man walks past as a Vancouver Police Department patrol car sits in front of the Schara Tzedeck synagogue, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, May. 31, 2024. The Vancouver synagogue targeted by an arsonist earlier this week is set to hold its first service just days after the attack charred the building's front door and left the Jewish community shaken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

VANCOUVER – A Vancouver synagogue is set to hold its first service after an arson attack charred the building’s front door and left the Jewish community shaken.

Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt says he anticipates the Schara Tzedeck synagogue on Oak Street will be “fuller than usual” today for Sabbath and he’s encouraging members of the congregation to turn out.

Rosenblatt says the arson attack in which someone used an accelerant to set a fire at the synagogue’s front door on Thursday night was a “cowardly” act.

He says the more worshippers who fill the building, the better the deterrent against a repeat.

Vancouver police say they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime and are mobilizing at Jewish sites around the city.

The fire, which Rosenblatt says was put out by a synagogue member with his jacket, blackened the door and left a strong smell of burning inside.

The attack comes after bullet holes were found at two Jewish schools in Montreal and Toronto in recent days.

No one was injured in the Vancouver attack or the other incidents.

Political leaders including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Columbia Premier David Eby and Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim condemned the attack.

Jewish community members say they are facing a rising wave of antisemitism since the Israel-Hamas conflict began in October.

“We can’t let it keep us from doing what we do,” Rosenblatt said of the attack.

“We can’t let it deter our mission and hopefully, I anticipate that on Saturday this place is going to be fuller than usual, and it’s a sad state of affairs that that’s what brings people into the building.”

Rosenblatt said he would like to see increased security around the synagogue and other Jewish facilities, but it should be done “within reason” given these are still community spaces that should feel welcoming.

“It’s always a double-edged sword,” he said. “The more security you put, the more intimidating it looks for people coming to visit. So we’re trying to harden the target and soften the entrance. I’m not exactly sure how else to put it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2024.

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