Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Members of Toronto’s Jewish community react to Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

It was a busy day at Beth Tzedec Congregation.

But as Hebrew school let out, and an afternoon conference kicked off, hearts were heavy with sadness and anger.

Lorraine Sandler has been a member here for more than 40 years. She was shocked when she learned about the shooting in Pittsburgh.

“I was totally horrified and disgusted,” Sandler said.

The shooting in Pittsburgh is troubling for Jewish communities around the world, with some seeing the recent violence as an attack on the entire Jewish people.

Dealing with anti-Semitism is a fight many tackle on a regular basis.

“It’s very sad that the world has to put up with this kind of inhumanity,” Leah Aharonov said. “We should be pulling together and caring about one another.”

Steven Shulman is the senior Vice President with the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

“Here in Toronto if you look at the latest police statistics, the Jewish community is the most targeted by hate crime and that’s been the case for many years,” Shulman said.

In the last few months, police across the GTA have responded to a number of incidents, but the recent shooting south of the border raises fresh concerns.

In response, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders tweeted that the force condemns the recent violence and stands with the Jewish community.

Other officers, meanwhile, also addressed police efforts. “I want to reassure [the community] that we are doing everything we can to monitor any potential risks to public safety here,” Cst. David Hopkinson told Global News on Sunday.

At Beth Tzedec Congregation, having security in place is common. Staff are on site inside the doors, searching people’s bags as they enter the building. Thinking about safety, Shulman says, is not new for the Jewish community.

“Congregations always have some sort of security budget as do community centres,” Shulman explained.

At certain times of the year it is an automatic that we would bring in paid duty police officers.” Still, against this latest backdrop of hate and worry, members of the community say they have resolved not to live in fear.

“It shouldn’t stop us from being who we are and from being proud to be Jewish, and to be part of this larger global community,” Aiden Orzech, a teacher, told Global News.

It’s a message he says he hopes to share with his students.

“This is my place, and these are my people,” Sandler added. “Nothing will stop me from participating in the Jewish community and practicing my faith.”

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