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Toronto public school responds to anti-Semitic incident

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A Jewish student club flyer that was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti. (Robert Walker/Facebook)

Northern Secondary School, a public high school in midtown Toronto, is being applauded by a Jewish advocacy group for the way it has responded to an anti-Semitic incident.

Robert Walker, national director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, said he was invited to the school on April 18, to speak to a Jewish student club run by Northern students who are also members of NCSY, an Orthodox youth group.

“We were discussing anti-Semitism on campus and one of the students mentioned that anti-Semitism is everywhere and that there was even anti-Semitic graffiti on one of the flyers at the school,” Walker said.

A hand-drawn flyer inviting Jewish and non-Jewish students alike to enjoy free pizza on Wednesdays during lunch was defaced with swastikas, as well as the phrases, “F–k the Rothschilds,” “Heil Hitler” and “Gas ’em all.”

“I asked what had been done about it and the student told me that it was still up. I had them take it down and we reported it soon after to the administration,” Walker said.

READ: THE POWER OF WORDS AND THE NEED TO STOP ANTI-SEMITISM

“Within three hours of being informed about this, the principal was there all night going through security footage, contacted the police and were in touch with the school board.”

Walker said he hasn’t yet been informed about whether the security cameras caught the incident on tape.

Gillian Gibbons, the school’s principal, told Walker that in her view, this constitutes a hate crime.

Gibbons sent a letter to parents and students addressing the incident and promising to take action.

“This is completely unacceptable and upsetting for all of us at Northern. It is not reflective of who we are and what we stand for as a school and as a community,” Gibbons wrote.

Who we are as a school will be measured by how we collectively respond to this situation.
– Gillian Gibbons

“Northern is a place that promotes and celebrates diversity, inclusion and respect for all in creating a caring and safe learning environment.”

Gibbons said that school staff would be addressing the incident with students and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.

“This also speaks to the need for us as a school to continue to educate our students in human rights education, so that we can learn from our past, in order to better our future as an inclusive society,” she said.

“Who we are as a school will be measured by how we collectively respond to this situation and not by this single despicable action.”

Walker said he was pleased that the school administration acted so quickly and decisively.

“Obviously, one incident, while extremely troubling, doesn’t represent the student body there, or the school. There is no evidence to suggest that this is systemic and the response of the school has been exactly what we want to see. If only we saw this from universities,” Walker said.

“This is exactly what we would want to see.”