Shots fired at Jewish school in Toronto

Shots fired at Jewish school in Toronto

Police in Toronto, Canada are searching for two suspects after shots were fired at a Jewish school in the North York district of the city early Saturday morning.

Insp. Paul Krawczyk of the Toronto Police’s Guns and Gangs Task Force said in a press conference on Saturday afternoon that two suspects arrived at the Bais Chaya Mushka School for Girls in a dark-colored vehicle just before 5 a.m. local time and opened fire outside the gate, causing damage to the front of the building. They then returned to their car and fled the scene.

Police were called to the scene at around 9 a.m. after staff called investigators with a report of “evidence of a firearm discharge,” according to Krawczyk.

There were no injuries reported and no reports of gunshots being heard in the area at the time of incident.

“I completely understand that this can cause concern and fear and anxiety in the community, especially when it happens at a school like this,” the CBC News quoted Krawczyk as saying.

While stressing that it was too early in the investigation to determine whether it was a hate crime or terrorist act, Krawczyk said that there would be an increased police presence in the community as well as at other schools and synagogues.

“This is a gross display of antisemitism. It’s beyond belief that anyone could be this hateful,” tweeted Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

“Every student deserves to feel safe at school. If you have any information, please contact Toronto police. These cowards need to be found and brought to justice,” he continued.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs issued a statement, calling the shooting a “clear, calculated, and premeditated targeting of a Jewish school for girls.”

That a school was targeted, whether or not children were present at the time, “Represents another worrying escalation in the violence Jewish Canadians have been experiencing,” the statement continued.

“We’ve continuously been raising awareness of the troubling increase in antisemitic incidents, that are becoming more violent and threatening. The stress and anxiety this creates for the Jewish community cannot be understated, but it is also of utmost importance that we continue to take part in Jewish life. We will stay vigilant, but we will not be intimidated,” it concluded.

Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies called the incident a “shocking escalation of violence directed at innocent Jewish children,” adding that it “must serve as a wake up call for political leaders in our city and across our country.”

“It is time for our leaders to stop with the sympathetic words and instead to take the decisive actions that are necessary to confront the escalating hatred that is plaguing our communities. Jews in this country will not hide or cower in fear in the face of this brazen and cowardly act,” he said.

Canada is home to the fourth largest Jewish community in the world, with 393,000 Jews in 2020, according to the World Jewish Congress.

The country’s largest Jewish community lives in Toronto, numbering about 190,000. In March, Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw confirmed that there had been an explosion of antisemitic acts in Canada after Oct. 7.

“Of the 84 hate crimes so far in 2024, 56% are antisemitic. Last month was the highest number of antisemitic occurrences in the last three years,” Demkiw said at the time. A Jewish-owned grocery store was firebombed and graffitied in Toronto.

In Montreal, in the weeks following Oct. 7, the police reported 79 hate crimes against Jews. In all of 2023, the number was under 40.

Instances included shots fired at two Jewish schools, Talmud Torah and Yeshiva Gedola, firebombs thrown at a Jewish community center and a synagogue in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, and a violent clash between pro-Hamas and pro-Israel groups at Concordia University. 

“This trend actually predates Oct. 7,” said Fogel. “Since Oct. 7, it has almost taken on a life of its own. The core engine for this hate are the Palestinian and Arab Muslim communities partnered with the woke, radical left.”

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