TORONTO — In a religious ceremony to mark the shloshim – the 30th day of mourning – in honour of the four Jewish victims of the Paris terror attack at the kosher supermarket, about 100 people gathered at Sephardic Kehila Centre in Thornhill on Feb. 10 to pay their respects.
On Jan. 9, four Jewish men, Johan Cohen, Yohav Hattab, Philippe Brahan and François-Michel Saada, were gunned down by Islamic extremists as they shopped in the hours before Shabbat, said Guidy Mamman, chair of the event organized by the Communauté Juive Marocaine de Toronto (CJMT), in partnership with a number of Sephardi congregations.
“Tonight, we, the Sephardi Jewish community of Toronto, are marking this tragic milestone,” Mamman said.
Following the lighting of memorial candles by Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School students, as well as prayers and the Mourner’s Kaddish, a number of community and political leaders addressed the gathering about the terrorist attacks in Paris last month and the threat that terrorists pose to those who adhere to western values.
York Centre MP Mark Adler began by saying he is “absolutely fed up” having to speak at events that commemorate innocent victims of terror, and that the world needs to fight back.
“You know, our Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a few weeks back that radical jihad had declared war on us… They said they are coming to the West to drink our blood… If there is one thing we can count on the terrorists to do, it’s to keep their word. That is why we, not only Jews, but all people of good conscience, must stand united, must stand together to fight this scourge, to fight these barbarians and to take action,” Adler said.
He added that Canada’s government has committed its forces to fight Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Iraq, and introduced legislation in Parliament to fight terrorism, both homegrown and abroad.
Vaughan mayor Maurizio Bevilaqua said it is important to respond as a united front when tragedies like this occur.
“This world has been around for millions and millions of years. Billions of people have inhabited this earth for centuries upon centuries and isn’t it truly miraculous that we have found each other here tonight… to be here for each other?”
When B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn took to the podium, he referred to an interview U.S. President Barack Obama gave earlier that day. In it, Obama characterized the attack as a random act of violence against “a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
“This morning, when Obama’s press secretary was supposed to clarify the statement, he repeatedly denied that the deli was attacked because it was a kosher deli,” Mostyn said.
“I am here to tell you tonight that we cannot and will not accept any denial of the indisputable fact that this violence was perpetrated by radical jihadists upon our brothers and sisters in France.”
Gad Alon, Israel’s consul in Toronto, said the challenge with jihadists is that they can’t be dealt with in a traditional diplomatic setting.
“Our enemies are not interested in sitting down and discussing. But more importantly, our enemies do not play fair. They attack innocent civilians in a way that we cannot understand. They are willing to die as long as they kill as many free thinkers as possible. They are willing to die in order to kill us,” Alon said.
“This evening, we remember the four victims at the kosher market in Paris, but we must also remember that evil always exists. We are commanded to remember, not for the sake of the past, but for the sake of the future.”
Jean-Francois Casabonne Masonnave, the French consul general in Toronto; Len Rudner, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ community relations director; CJMT president Simon Keslassy; and Rabbi Messod Azoulay, Abir Yaacov Congregation’s spiritual leader, also said a few words about the terror attack before the gathering observed a moment of silence to honour the victims.