Jewish leaders, politicians voice outrage over suspected arson at Vancouver synagogue

Leaders of Vancouver’s Jewish community say they’re outraged after a fire was set in the doorway of a synagogue in the city’s West Side on Thursday night.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) said in a statement that it has launched a criminal investigation of the incident at the Congregation Schara Tzedeck synagogue and believes an “accelerant” was used to light the fire. In its statement, it said the fire was an act of arson.

According to Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt, a few members of the congregation were standing around the corner from the doorway outside when the fire was set.

“There was no one in the building at that particular moment, but it was … I would say within a 10-minute window of people being in the building,” Rosenblatt said in an interview with CBC News.

WATCH | Footage of the flames in the synagogue doorway: 

Fire set in doorway of Vancouver synagogue

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Duration 1:02

Vancouver police and fire officials are investigating after a fire was set in the doorway of the Schara Tzedeck synagogue on Oak Street on the evening of May 30. Police say it was arson and are treating it as a possible hate crime.

He said the people outside heard a bang, and then the driver of a car stopped near the congregants and told them the building was on fire. 

The congregants went to the doorway and extinguished the fire, Rosenblatt said.

“Thank God …. there’s no damage that we can’t take care of. But of course, it’s a very intimidating thing and we feel fortunate that we didn’t wake up to a pile of ashes, which obviously … was a potential outcome here,” he said.

A man in a blue suit stands facing the doors of a synagogue, the doors have significant black burn marks on them
Aron Csaplaros, B.C regional manager of B’nai Birth Canada, looks at the damage after the fire. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Police launch criminal investigation

In a statement the Vancouver Fire Department said it responded to a “set fire in a doorway” at 9:45 p.m. PT on Thursday, but that the fire “was out upon arrival.” It added that no one was injured and the damage was confined to the doorway.

VPD said Friday that its major crime section is leading its investigation, and officers from the force’s community relations section are “conducting extensive community outreach.” 

It said additional officers have been assigned to Jewish community centres, schools and religious institutions.

“This fire was intentionally set at a place of worship for the Jewish community,” Const. Tania Visintin said in a statement.

A police car is seen outside of the Congregation Schara Tzedeck Synagogue in Vancouve
A police vehicle outside the Congregation Schara Tzedeck synagogue in Vancouver early Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Aron Csaplaros, B.C. regional manager for the Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada, said in a statement that he received a frantic call from a community member that there was a fire burning at the entrance to the synagogue.

“This is a serious and dangerous escalation of antisemitic activity in Vancouver, and it is outrageous and repugnant,” said Csaplaros in the statement.

WATCH |  ‘Nothing justifies hurting innocent people,’ Csaplaros says: 

Arson investigation launched at Vancouver synagogue

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Aron Csaplaros of Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada says he rushed over to the Schara Tzedeck synagogue Thursday night after a fire was set outside one of its doors. Police are investigating the fire as arson and a possible hate crime.

Politicians say incident was antisemitic

Both B.C. Premier David Eby and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted statements on social media condemning the fire. Both politicians labelled it as a “disgusting act of antisemitism.”

“We stand with the Jewish community in B.C. and unequivocally condemn antisemitism and all forms of hatred,” said Eby in a post on X.


Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said the fire was a “hateful act of anti-Semitism” in a news release, and added that the city stands with the Jewish community. 

“Vancouver is a city that prides itself on its diversity, inclusivity and respect for all communities. We will not tolerate acts of hatred and violence against any group,” he said in the release.

The Early Edition6:46Fire intentionally set at Vancouver synagogue last night

Police are investigating after a fire was deliberately set at a Vancouver synagogue Thursday night. We speak to Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt of the Congregation Schara Tzedeck.

More to come.


Posted in CBC