TORONTO — An Israeli man who had been trespassing at Eitz Chaim Day School on Patricia Avenue was sent to hospital to be evaluated for “mental health issues,” Toronto police said.
Eitz Chaim staff and parents have been on high alert since April 19 when a man showed up at the all-boys branch of the school and began playing soccer with some of the kids during recess, said Rabbi Isser Pliner, dean of Eitz Chaim.
When the teachers asked him to leave the campus, he reluctantly complied.
“The next day, he came back at around 1:15 p.m. and he was asked to leave again, and he was a little more belligerent and it took a little more to get him to leave again.”
Rabbi Pliner said when he confronted him, the man challenged him about why he had to leave school property.
“In the meantime, I was involved with Doron Horowitz, [director of national security infrastructure for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs], right from the get-go for some advice, and I involved the police right from the get-go,” he said.
“He came back two hours later, and was again upset about the fact that the police had visited his house.”
Rabbi Pliner sent two detailed e-mails to Eitz Chaim parents, describing what the man looked like and how his staff was handling the unfolding situation.
“The man is around 30 years of age and medium in size. He appears to be an Israeli Jew. He wears tzitztis, but goes with a bare head. He lives on Patricia Avenue. He has made no attempt to be physical in any way,” Rabbi Pliner wrote in an April 23 e-mail.
On April 24, the situation escalated when the man returned to the campus at dismissal time, taking pictures of the students and their parents’ cars.
“He stirred a lot of attention,” Rabbi Pliner said.
“The cops went to his house again and that is when they issued the trespass violation and fined him… He promised not to come back, but he’s not necessarily all there… He promised, but no one is feeling that he may live up to that.”
Det. Scott McKay of 32 Division confirmed that police gave the man a $65 trespassing ticket, but he was not formally charged with trespassing, which is a criminal offence.
He explained the process involved in having someone charged with trespassing. He said following a verbal warning by the property owners, the trespasser is then warned in writing.
“Once that is done, the police have to be authorized personally by giving us a letter saying that we’re authorized to enforce a trespass to property act,” McKay said.
“He was at the point where he had been notified in writing not to be on the property, and we had been authorized to exercise the trespass to property act,” McKay said.
“If the trespassing continues, we can arrest them under the trespass to property act and hold them before a justice of the peace.”
McKay said there is no set number of times a person has to trespass before he can be arrested.
“It comes down to discretion and what is happening in that particular case.”
In the latest confrontation on April 26, the man returned to the Eitz Chaim campus. The police were called, and after assessing the situation, officers on the scene decided that “there were some mental health issues, and he has since been taken to the hospital,” McKay said.
“It wasn’t a concerning issue with the children or anything, I think he’s more of a conspiracy-theory type. I think… he’s not happy with the rabbis and the administration at the school.”
Rabbi Pliner agreed, suspecting that the man “seems to be a person who has a problem with Eitz Chaim.”
The rabbi said the school hired a security guard last week for an indeterminate amount of time, but said if the need for security remains, parents will be asked to cover the cost.
Alison Finkelstein, a parent of a student who attends Eitz Chaim, said she’s comforted by the actions being taken by the school’s staff and police.
“As a parent, I feel the school is doing everything they can to keep this person away from our kids, and keeping our kids safe,” she said.
“It makes me nervous, though, that despite police involvement, this guy keeps coming back to the school. Hopefully now with security guards being hired, he will get the hint and stay away.”
Late last year, Eitz Chaim was involved in a similar situation involving a different man whom Rabbi Pliner described to The CJN at the time as dressing in “a frum manner.”
In that incident, the rabbi warned parents via e-mail that “a man who was raised in the Toronto Torah community… has recently tried to lure teenagers from our neighbourhoods and our schools into inappropriate relationships and situations.”
Rabbi Pliner added that the man later left for a treatment facility in the southwestern United States.