MONTREAL — The hard line Jewish Defence League Canada’s (JDL) latest attempt to establish a Montreal chapter is being deplored by Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who heads the Jewish community’s security co-ordinating committee.
He said law-enforcement agencies are doing a commendable job protecting the community and there is no need for the JDL or any other purported self-defence group to take on that role.
Toronto-based JDL Canada is scheduled to meet Feb. 16 at Ruby Foo’s Hotel to explain why it is expanding into this city. It says Montreal had become “a focal point for radical Islamic ideology” and that it intends to join with other “anti-jihadist forces in Quebec” to “shut down” institutions that promote that ideology.
“The threat of violence towards Jews is increasing at an alarming rate, but the authorities seem to have limited ability to deal with these outrageous examples of civil disobedience,” the widely circulated invitation to the meeting reads.
“These events take place because Jew-bashing has become an accepted form of racism and the sad reality is that many Jews refuse to understand the principle that a bully needs to be confronted to be defeated.”
It faults “leaders of major Jewish organizations” for not gathering the community to respond as one voice.
JDL Canada says its priority in Montreal is to set up a “quick response security team to ensure that people who promote this type of Jew-hatred will face serious consequences from within the local community.”
However, the flyer also states that its self-defence activities are “according to the laws of the country” and that JDL Canada works with police and other security departments.
Rabbi Poupko, who is also a board member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the Montreal police and RCMP have “rigorously investigated” major hate crimes against the Jewish community, which has led to convictions.
He said the community has confidence in the professionalism of the police and is grateful for the seriousness with which they treat any act or threat.
“There is no void here that needs to be filled,” he said.
As for whether Montreal is a hub for extremism, Rabbi Poupko said, “Radical Islam is a worldwide phenomenon and, of course, in Montreal, as elsewhere in the West, it is a problem. But fear-mongering is not helpful.
“Anyone who knows the real situation on the ground feels confident about the Montreal Jewish community’s security.”
Last summer, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, JDL Canada director Meir Weinstein told the media he was about to open a Montreal chapter. A meeting was held in August at an unpublicized location, which was attended by about 50 people.
The JDL historically had its followers in Montreal, even into the 1990s. A memorial was held for JDL founder Meir Kahane at a synagogue here, which was attended by several prominent rabbis, after he was murdered in 1990.
In the United States, the FBI labelled the JDL a terrorist group in 2001. It has been inactive there for several years.