MONTREAL — Chassidic rabbinical authorities are so concerned by the mysterious theft of traditional men’s clothing from a private home that they have issued a ruling to report any suspicious activity – even if it means using the phone on Shabbat.
On the night of July 25 – a Friday – burglars entered the Outremont home of a family of five while they slept, the community emergency response team Chaverim Shomrim reported. They stole two shtreimls – brimmed hats trimmed with fur – and a bekishe, a patterned robe worn on holy days.
The thieves did not take anything else, although valuables, such as silverware, were within reach, Chaverim Shomrim director Barry Eisner said.
In the tense climate resulting from the Israel-Hamas conflict, community leaders are worried about the intentions of the thieves, whom they presume to be non-Jews.
Eisner said there is fear that they might disguise themselves as chassidim and infiltrate the community to do harm.
However, Eisner cautioned that this is only a theory and doubts that it is likely.
“Maybe they think they can sell them,” he said, “but they are going to find out they can’t.”
Community members are being asked by the organization to be on the alert for non-chassidim who are wearing the garments or trying to sell them, and to report such a sighting or anything else suspicious to Chaverim Shomrim at 514-990-4263, or to the police.
The organization has been working closely with the police who are investigating the crime, and security outside synagogues on Shabbat has been stepped up, Eisner said.
At time of writing, the police had no leads in solving this crime or recovering the articles, he said.
The halachic prohibition of such activity on Shabbat was waived by the rabbis because the purloined clothing is usually worn at that time.
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, there have been a few disturbing incidents in the chassidic neighbourhoods, including a car daubed by swastikas and the words “F— Israhell” being driven by on July 21. The occupants held Palestinian flags. The incident was photographed and circulated on the Internet.
Eisner said the incidents have been relatively minor, and stressed that the “police have been very, very helpful. We are very happy with the security they provide us.”
In a statement, B'nai Brith Canada speculated that the theft could be related to recent violence between Israel and Hamas.noting that the "terrorist entity, has recently released a video inciting its members to attack Jews using disguise tactics. In the released commercial, a terrorist is shown wearing both an explosive device and traditional Orthodox Jewish clothing – including a bekishe similar to the one stolen."
Added CEO Frank Dimant: "“These garments are clear indicators of belonging to a specific religious group, and if worn could easily be used as a disguise to infiltrate parts of the Jewish community. It cannot be discounted that these garments will be used to cause harm to the community in some way… Following [Hamas'] clear incitement to use disguise tactics, this threat must be taken seriously as the possible inspiration for this peculiar theft.”