Montreal Jewish school again target of gunfire Sunday

It was the second time in several days shots were fired at Yeshiva Gedolah in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Côte-des-Neiges borough

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Gunshots were fired early Sunday morning at Yeshiva Gedola of Montreal, a Jewish day school, police said. It was the second shooting at the Deacon Rd. school in four days.

SPVM officers found bullet impact marks on the building’s entrance doors and more than one shell casing on the ground nearby. Police searched the building and found no one inside. There were no injuries.

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Several 911 calls were made at about 5 a.m. reporting gunshots. Witnesses told police a vehicle fled the scene near Yeshiva Gedola after the gunshots were heard, Montreal police spokesperson Caroline Chèvrefils said on Sunday morning.

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The school, which is normally open on Sunday, communicated with parents and redirected students elsewhere, said Federation CJA president and chief executive officer Yair Szlak.

He also said the Federation CJA director of community security is in contact with Montreal police.

No arrests have been made in the incident and an investigation is underway, Chèvrefils said. A security perimeter has been set up and investigators and crime-scene technicians are on the scene. Police will check to see whether surrounding surveillance cameras reveal any information, she said.

Onlookers peer down the street at Yesiva Gedola, a Jewish school in N.D.G. on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, after the school was the target of gunshots early Sunday morning.
Onlookers peer down the street at Yeshiva Gedola, a Jewish school in the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. The school was the target of gunshots early Sunday morning for the second time in four days. Photo by John Kenney /Montreal Gazette

Said Szlak: “We have been assured that these events are the top priority for the SPVM and they will continue to work with us to ensure high visibility and security for our community.”

He advised people: “If you see something, say something.” He said to call 911 in an emergency and, when safe, to report to the community security hotline at 514-343-4343 or use Federation CJA’s online form to report suspicious incidents or behaviour.

Federation CJA is also encouraging witnesses to report all incidents and suspicious behaviour to Montreal police.

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A Montreal police K9 unit works in front of Yeshiva Gedola school on Deacon Road in the in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Côte-des-Neiges borough of Montreal on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, where gunshots were fired early Sunday morning.
A Montreal police K9 unit works in front of Yeshiva Gedola school on Deacon Rd. in the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough of Montreal on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, where gunshots were fired early Sunday morning. Photo by John Kenney /Montreal Gazette

Sunday’s incident comes after shots were fired at Yeshiva Gedola and the Talmud Torah Elementary School on St-Kevin Ave. overnight Wednesday. Both are in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough.

Last week, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue and Jewish community centre in the West Island.

“My heart goes out to the Jewish community of Quebec, once again the victim of an attack on one of its schools,” Premier François Legault said in a statement Sunday. “Every effort will be made to find and punish the culprits. The Quebec nation is a peaceful nation. Let us not import the hatred and violence that we see elsewhere in the world.”

Speaking to reporters gathered down the street from Yeshiva Gedola on Sunday amid a heavy police presence, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said: “The Jewish community is under attack — and it is unacceptable that people fear sending their children to school.”

She said the message she wants to get across is “here in Montreal, we are a city of peace. Nothing can justify bullets fired at a school. An antisemitic act like this has no place in our city. For people who think they can commit such acts — no. Violence has no place in our community.”

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Plante said Montreal police are “working really hard,” that those responsible for the shootings will be found “and there will be consequences.”

“When I learned of the shooting that happened for a second time in our school here (in the borough), I was absolutely horrified,” Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, told reporters.

She said there would be an increased police presence not only around the school, “but also around other religious schools and other places in the borough, and in Montreal in general.”

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“This is not Montreal. We don’t want Montrealers to feel unsafe in their city. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Kasoki Katahwa said, adding she also contacted Jewish community leaders to reassure them.

Kasoki Katahwa said she contacted the school as soon as she heard the news and also got in touch with Alain Vaillancourt, who is responsible for public security at Montreal’s executive committee. Police patrols have been increased around the city, and especially in the C.D.N.-N.D.G. borough, Vaillancourt said. A police presence would be maintained around the school for the next 24 hours, he said.

Investigations are underway and other police units are contributing to the work of the SPVM’s hate-crimes unit, Vaillancourt said. “The message is: You can’t just say and do anything you want. We’ll be after you — and we’ll get you.”

Acting as spokesperson for Yeshiva Gedola, Lionel Perez, a former Montreal city councillor and former borough mayor of C.D.N.-N.D.G., told reporters: “We are worried, concerned. Unfortunately, history repeats itself. It is unacceptable.

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“The Jewish community is resilient, vigilant,” said Perez, a former member of the school’s board. The school has confidence in the police and elected officials, he added.

“We are saddened there has been a horrendous sequence of violent terrorist attacks,” said Henry Topas, Quebec regional director for B’nai Brith Canada. “And I will include in that the Molotov cocktail thrown at my synagogue in Dollard-des-Ormeaux last Tuesday on the one-month anniversary of the Hamas-led terrorist atrocities in Israel.”

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“The community is, of course, outraged by the continuing attacks on us,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation on Sunday morning.

“Everybody is now living with heightened vigilance and with care and caution,” he said. “We have heightened security at all our institutions, but we are determined not to allow the acts of a few cowards to determine how we behave and how we conduct ourselves.”

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