Calgary police probe anti-Semitic vandalism

Police investigating anti-Semitic vandalism at three Jewish centres and nearby property in southwest Calgary say video surveillance captured one person in the incidents but others might have also been involved.
A swastika was spray-painted on a sign at the House of Jacob synagogue at 16th Street and 92nd Avenue S.W. in Calgary. ((Terri Trembath/CBC))

Police investigating anti-Semitic vandalism at three Jewish centres and nearby property in southwest Calgary say video surveillance captured one person in the incidents but others might have also been involved.

Swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans were spray-painted on the Jewish Community Centre near 90th Avenue and Jerusalem Road S.W., the Holocaust memorial in front of it and the House of Jacob synagogue a block away.

Graffiti was also found on a community mailbox, a private residence and a wall in the same Pump Hill neighbourhood.

Vandals also struck another synagogue, a bus shelter and a community mailbox in the Woodbine neighbourhood.

"It appears to be the same people," Judy Shapiro, community relations director for the Calgary Jewish Community Council, said Monday. "It's the same style of graffiti and the same ugly messaging."

Vandals also sprayed anti-Semitic slogans on a nearby community mailbox.

Police say the incidents, which they described as serious, occurred late Saturday or early Sunday. 

Calgary police Insp. Richard Hinse said that although video footage shows only one person perpetrating the vandalism, it doesn't mean that individual was the only one involved.

'Beyond graffiti'

The graffiti in Pump Hill included a swastika and the words "Kill Jews" spray-painted on a community mailbox.

"I would view it as an attack upon the Jewish community, inciting hatred, or leading down that road," said Insp. John McReynolds, from the police diversity resource unit. "So, we want to get to the bottom of it if we can. We want to find the answers out.

"But we're not considering this as a death threat at that level or anything like that. We have to do a lot more investigations before we cross that threshold."

Shapiro said she was most shocked by the messages painted across the centre's Holocaust memorial.

"For the people whose family's names are recorded on that monument, that is their grave," she said. "It's beyond graffiti; it's real hate."

Sarah McCartney, who lives near the community centre, called the vandalism "disgusting."

"I guess there are people like that still out there," McCartney said. "Hopefully, it was a bunch of kids being stupid … as opposed to someone who really knows what it means."

"I think [it was] a bunch of idiots who are ignorant and who creep around three o'clock in the morning. How brave are they?" said Murray Robins outside the centre.

Shapiro said there have been small incidents of graffiti at Jewish centres in Calgary before but nothing of this scope. She said education is the only way to end such ugly messages.

"It's very important that young people understand that racism still exists and that we have to battle it," she said.