MONTREAL (JTA) — Vandals defaced Quebec province’s oldest synagogue building with Nazi swastikas over the weekend, prompting a Canadian Jewish watchdog to call on Montreal mayor Valérie Plante to do more to fight antisemitism.
Leaders of the Bagg Street Synagogue — located just off of Saint Laurent Boulevard in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, at the former heart of Montreal’s Jewish community — reportedly met Wednesday with Montreal police’s hate crimes unit. Photos taken by B’nai Brith Canada show swastikas spray painted on the synagogue’s front doors.
The Bagg Street synagogue, or Congregation Temple Solomon, traces its history back to 1906. But it moved into its current location in 1921, where it has remained and become the oldest synagogue building in continual use in Quebec. It inherited furnishings from the historic Shaar Hashomayim synagogue when that congregation moved to a new location in 1922, according to archivist Hannah Srour-Zackon.
While formal membership has dwindled, the Bagg Street synagogue holds free holiday services and welcomes tourists visiting to explore the city’s former Jewish neighborhood. In the first half of the 20th century, a Jewish immigration boom led to the establishment of at least a dozen synagogues in the area.
Bagg Street is the only one that remains. Montreal’s Holocaust museum is planning to move into a new location in the neighborhood by 2025.
“While the congregation is small, the synagogue evokes Jewish history in Montreal and the attack on it is causing dismay in the community,” Marvin Rotrand, a former city councilor who now is national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights, wrote in a letter to Plante. He urged Plainte to be “more proactive in combating antisemitism.”
“I am wholeheartedly with the Jewish community and I strongly condemn these antisemitic acts which have no place in our society,” Plainte tweeted.