Hamilton police are investigating after anti-Semitic graffiti was left outside the Beth Jacob Synagogue over the weekend.
Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli said he was in such a rush to get to the synagogue for the 9:15 a.m. service on Saturday morning that he didn’t notice the graffiti until several congregants pointed it out. Once he saw it, he said, it was unmistakable.
Written in bright pink chalk on the pavement at the entrance to the synagogue was the word “Jews”, crossed out within a circle, as well as a swastika.
Police arrived on the scene to document the evidence and while investigating, officers found several more instances of anti-Semitic graffiti around the synagogue, including on the sidewalk of Aberdeen Avenue.
“It’s really disturbing,” said Lavery-Yisraeli. “We have Holocaust survivors in our congregation who recognize that symbol and had to see it again in their later years.
“And it’s difficult for young people also. I have a six-year-old son who was with me, and we had to explain to him what it meant. It was really shocking.”
Although police parked a car overtop of the graffiti in an attempt to block it from other congregants, Lavery-Yisraeli said the whole experience was still jarring and disturbing for congregants who had expected to attend a normal service.
The incident came immediately after a conference to address hate in Hamilton was held at the McMaster Innovation Park on Friday and right before Saturday’s Gandhi Peace Festival in front of Hamilton City Hall.
Lavery-Yisraeli, who was a facilitator during the conference on Friday, said he couldn’t be entirely sure whether the timing of the graffiti was related to those events, or whether it was deliberately done ahead of Yom Kippur, which is considered to be the holiest day of the year in Judaism.
“We don’t want to be hidden,” said Lavery-Yisraeli. “You can see our synagogue from the street and we’re proud to be here. We’re proud to be part of Hamilton and part of this multicultural city.”
Lavery-Yisraeli said they’ve looked at surveillance camera footage from Friday night, which he said shows four males between the ages of 16 and 18 leaving the graffiti at approximately 10:20 p.m.