Ottawa police are investigating after a swastika and a vintage anti-Semitic slur was spray-painted on the home of the leader of an Ottawa-based minyan.
Rabbi Anna Maranta, leader of the Glebe Minyan in Ottawa, told The CJN that when she woke up in the middle of the night, around 2:45 a.m., on Nov. 15, she noticed that something was scrawled on the glass window of the door of her home on Powell Avenue. The street is in the Glebe, an upscale, urban neighbourhood in central Ottawa that’s home to many families and professionals.
She said about an hour after finding the graffiti, which included the word “kike” as well as the Nazi symbol, she posted a photo of the door on Facebook, along with a press release that began: “This. This is what has been unleashed by the American President-Elect, and those that support him.”
The graffiti has since been removed.
According to her Facebook post, which went online around 4 a.m., Rabbi Maranta said the incident occurred between 11 p.m. on Nov. 14 and 2:45 a.m the next morning.
“I contacted the hate crimes unit fairly quickly, within a very short period of time of discovering it… on the website they have a way to contact the hate crimes unit [online], so I did that, and then they followed up over the course of the morning,” she said.
“One of the officers came out and took a statement and retrieved photos from the graffiti removal company… he knocked on doors of people who are close to this address, but in my imagination, they are not likely to find anyone who saw anything,” she added.
“To the best of my knowledge, nothing like this has ever happened here… It’s pretty brazen. My porch is pretty open and the door is always open, so someone came up with the intent to do this, and did it.”
Maranta was quick to connect this incident to the election of Donald Trump in the United States.
“The fact that the president-elect has been able to campaign on a message of hate and not be censored… has emboldened people who hold these beliefs to act more in a public way.”
When Bernie Farber, a hate crime expert from his time as head of the former Canadian Jewish Congress, learned about the early-morning incident, he took to Facebook to ask his followers to “wait until the police have completed the investigation before any further comment is made.”
Farber told The CJN that he has “some questions and concerns about how this has played out, and that’s why I’m waiting for the police to complete the investigation.
“There are complexities here that are beyond our knowledge and understanding, and before we reach conclusions, let’s wait and see what the police have to say,” he said.
“These are very complex situations that occur at times when there is lots of angst. The Trump election has caused angst among the Jewish community and the Muslim community.”
Ottawa police spokesperson Marc Soucy, said that although he could not discuss specifics of the case while it is under investigation, he confirmed that police learned about the complaint after the media had picked up the story.
Responding to members of the community who said they feel like there may be more to this incident than meets the eye, Rabbi Maranta said, “I don’t know what to say to that. I know what I experienced. I know what was on my porch. I have a photograph of it. As for the timeline, I can show people that I made a report to the hate crimes unit and then went to Facebook, and I went to Facebook because that is the fastest way, at this point in time in history, to connect with the largest number of people. I wanted people to know what had happened and I needed to reach out for some support. I’m not sure what people wanted me to do differently.”
Ottawa South Liberal MP David McGuinty condemned the incident in the House of Commons Nov. 15.
“This incident clearly demonstrates that anti-Semitism still exists in Canada and that all of us must be vigilant, speak out, and actively work together to combat it. We simply cannot let this kind of discrimination go unanswered, or worse, seep into the everyday lives of Canadians,” said McGuinty.
“All of us in the House and in our communities must signal that religiously motivated attacks are indeed contrary to Canadian values and principles. I ask all members to stand together, side by side, in condemning, denouncing, and most of all, repudiating this incident and any others like it.”
B’nai Brith Canada released a statement in response to the attack.
“We’ve seen the rise of white nationalism in recent years, first in Europe, and now increasingly in Canada,” said Amanda Hohmann, National Director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights.
“These attacks are a symptom of the larger white nationalist movement gaining ground and acceptance around the world, and unless we start upholding the laws that are supposed to protect Canadians from being targeted by hate crimes, this is a problem which is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Andrea Freedman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa said in a statement that she is “outraged and deeply saddened by all acts of hate and anti-Semitism” and that the federation has been in touch with Ottawa police, “with whom we have an excellent relationship, and who always treat incidents of this nature very seriously.”
“The response of Ottawa police and government officials at all levels has been reassuring and greatly appreciated. It is clear that in our society, this type of behaviour will not be tolerated,” Freedman said.