Montreal

Shock, resilience at Montreal vigil for victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

In a cold rain Sunday, members of Montreal's Jewish community huddled outside the city's Holocaust Museum, shocked by the deadly shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead, but also refusing to give into fear.

Jewish community joined by members of other faiths in show of solidarity

Tali Ioselevich, who is Jewish, broke into tears when they saw their Muslim friend, Sarah Abdelshamy, in the crowd. (Claire Loewen/CBC)

In a cold rain Sunday, members of Montreal's Jewish community huddled outside the city's Holocaust Museum, shocked by the deadly shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead, but also refusing to give into fear.

The shooting, in which six people were injured as well, is being called the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent U.S. history.

Montreal police have stepped up patrols around synagogues since Saturday's attack. Jewish community leaders are urging their members to take precautions. 

Claris Harbon nearly didn't attend Sunday's vigil at the Holocaust Museum. But she chose instead to bring her three-year-old son, Moshe, and teach him about the importance of difference.  

"I was afraid. I said, 'No.' That's exactly what that assault on difference is supposed to bring: fear," Harbon said.

During the vigil, Claris Harbon spoke to her son, Moshe, about how difference does not mean division. (Claire Loewen/CBC)

The Jewish community was joined at the vigil by members of various faiths, standing by each other in a show of solidarity. 

Tali Ioselevich, who is Jewish, broke into tears when they saw their Muslim friend, Sarah Abdelshamy, in the crowd.

"I'm extremely lucky to be surrounded by people who consistently show up to … marches and protests to oppose racism," Ioselevich said, arm linked with Abdelshamy's.

Abdelshamy said extending support is the best type of solidarity to offer, especially between communities.

"I think it's important in times like these for communities to stand together and really show that we are together and that we are indivisible," she added.

For Musabbir Alam, a Montreal imam, Saturday's events brought back memories of the Quebec City mosque shooting in January of 2017.

"All houses of worship are sacred," said Alam, who is the co-founder of the Canadian Muslim Alliance. "We all share common faiths. This is something we didn't expect to happen."

He said showing up at the vigil was the least he could do.

"This is the time that all the ethnic minorities have to come together," Alam said.

Senseless hatred, senseless good

When news of the shooting broke Saturday morning, Rabbi Yisroel Bernath interrupted his Sabbath service at Chabad NDG to offer prayers for the victims. 

"Canada and the U.S. have always been a safe place," Bernath said Sunday. "Is this going to change the way we have to act in North America?"

'All houses of worship are sacred,' Musabbir Alam, a Montreal imam. (Claire Loewen/CBC)
Bernath's congregation held an impromptu prayer service on Sunday. He said Montreal's Jewish community needs to be more vigilant now than it has been in the past, and that includes ensuring there's proper security at synagogues.

But he also stressed the need to respond to the Pittsburgh attack with openness and inclusion. 

"We can't allow senseless hatred to change the course of our lives," Bernath said in an interview with CBC Montreal's All in a Weekend. "I think [the events are] a call to action — a call to increase goodness and kindness in the world.

"If there's senseless hatred, there must be senseless good as well."

Quebec Premier François Legault and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante expressed their condolences on Twitter, as did several Montreal-based Jewish organizations.

More vigils planned

Another vigil organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is taking place Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation on Mackle Road in Côte Saint-Luc.

Martin Sampson, a spokesperson for the CIJA, said everyone needs to help fight anti-Semitism in order to ensure that hatred does not spread.

"We have to understand that anti-Semitism, though the main brunt of it is borne by the Jewish community, is not a Jewish problem," Sampson added.

In addition, the Jewish community in Quebec City will hold a vigil next Sunday, in collaboration with the Quebec Mosque.

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