Jewish high school closes early after bomb threat
Threatening email is 2nd antisemitic incident the school reported in recent weeks
The head of a private Jewish high school is speaking out after staff received an email Friday alluding to bombs on and around school property.
Jonathan Levy said he and other administrative staff at The Anne & Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto in North York received an email after 11 a.m. that said there were a number of bombs "in or around the school" and that "many Jews were going to die today."
Levy says Toronto police were immediately called to investigate and staff and students evacuated the building. People were allowed to return to the building around 1:45 p.m., when students were allowed to collect their things and go home early.
"As a community, we are incredibly upset and outraged that these kinds of antisemitic events continue to take place," said Levy.
"We are incredibly grateful for the response of Toronto police ... for the speed with which they have assisted us today as well as over the past number of weeks during this time of increased antisemitism and increased signs of hate."
The incident is the second the school reported in the past few weeks. On Oct. 12., three males were arrested after allegedly making threats to the school. The force has said its hate crime unit is investigating.
The force has increased its patrols in Palestinian communities and Jewish communities, as well as cultural centres, synagogues, mosques, schools and other places of worship across the city, following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack in Israel,
"All of our students, all staff, all people deserve to live in an environment where they can come to school and go to work free of these kinds of threats," said Levy.
Police investigating, mayor shows support
Toronto police Insp. Jack Gurr said officers shut down nearby roads, assisted with the evacuation and searched the school with the help of police dogs. Police say no injuries were reported.
"We're confident that there's nothing in there to be worried about at this time," said Gurr. "We will investigate this all the way to the end."
In a statement Friday afternoon, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said 1,300 students evacuated the building. The neighbouring synagogue, which houses a daycare was also evacuated.
"Antisemitism is unacceptable," said Chow, adding she offered her support to the school. "We must stand together in the face of hate and discrimination."
In its own statement, The United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto said its "concerned and outraged" at the incident.
It said how the school handled the threat is "an example of the importance of Jewish institutions maintaining security protocols and a high level of readiness."
"Jewish institutions should ensure protocols are being followed, particularly access controls at building entrances. Voicemail and email in-boxes should be regularly checked, and any suspicious or threatening messages reported without delay," reads the statement.
Muslim community centre reports separate threat
On Thursday evening, York Regional Police dispatched officers to a Muslim community centre in Vaughan after it received a bomb threat.
Officers searched the Jaffari Community Centre and found nothing threatening.
York police said its hate crime unit was alerted but the investigation will be led by the local district. There's no word on any potential suspects at this time.