In late 2016, Rabbi Nevo Zuckerman received an odd, hateful email. It was the first real instance of anti-Semitism he could recall since moving to Kitchener, Ont., in 2011. But he didn’t think much of it – he trashed the note and moved on.
“This is just someone who is anti-Semitic,” Rabbi Zuckerman recalls thinking. “I get these emails once in a while and I will throw them out and not look twice.”
When the emails kept coming, however, he grew concerned. The harasser didn’t try to hide his identity: he was Ralph Boeck, a member of the New Constitution Party of Canada, a federal party that, according to its website, “incorporates the intellect of Dr. Ron Paul, the heart of Chancellor Adolf Hitler and the soul of Jesus Christ into one powerful political chimera that will crush the Marxist beast.”
Rabbi Zuckerman contacted the Waterloo Region District Police, with whom he’s maintained a good relationship by attending ride-alongs and helping solve domestic conflicts. The police confronted Boeck, who stopped for a while.
Yet weeks later, Boeck came back. He sent new emails praising Hitler and threatening the rabbi: “If you don’t leave the country, we will make you,” Rabbi Zuckerman recalled.
“I started to receive random emails with just… I don’t even know what to call them – they looked like a child wrote them, spewing hate.”
By the summer of 2017, Rabbi Zuckerman realized he had to take legal action.
Boeck was arrested in December 2017 and, on June 11, a local judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison, plus three years probation.
“We don’t tolerate this in Canada,” Judge Gregory Pockele said in his verdict. “As Canadians, we don’t want this.”
Pockele convicted Boeck on four counts of criminal harassment: one for Rabbi Zuckerman; one for Mark Grossman, a lawyer; one for Grossman’s partner, William Cline, who is not Jewish; and one for Rabbi Zuckerman’s congregation, Beth Jacob.
According to Zuckerman, by the time he was arrested, Boeck was leaving ranting, hateful messages on the synagogue’s voicemail, as well as his personal cellphone.
In 2016, Boeck created an account on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront, inquiring about meet-ups in the area. In one post, he went on a tangent praising Hitler and admonishing Jews:
“Dear Friends, When will there be next meeting? Someone sent a message from Peterboro?Who was that? I am in Kitchener.Can meet here or can travel to other cities.Jews INVENTED themselves as God’s people. They are not.There is no scientific universal true conclusion that they are so. They LIED. Hitler got it.”
The court heard that Boeck has been criminally charged more than 50 times in the past and suffers from mental-health issues, including bipolar disorder.
Yet Judge Pockele found that his mental illness was not relevant to his hatred. According to an article in the Waterloo Region Record, the judge found that Boeck “lacked remorse and didn’t feel guilt or shame for his actions.” He also scolded Boeck for trying to harass people under the guise of a “scientific, rational individual on a quest for truth.”
Rabbi Zuckerman is pleased with the ruling and says that Kitchener-Waterloo’s Jewish community – which rarely sees instances of anti-Semitism – is holding a group discussion, so people can air their feelings about the incident.
“We’re happy to see him serve his time,” he says. “We’re also sad that it’s taking place. We’re sad for this gentleman.”