Outrage after “horrendous” arson at Jewish synagogue in Vancouver

There is outrage from Jewish groups and community leaders after an arson at the Schara Tzedeck Synagogue in Vancouver on Thursday.

In a release, Vancouver police say they were called to the synagogue on Oak Street and West 18 Avenue around 10 pm.

“This fire was intentionally set at a place of worship for the Jewish community,” says Constable Tania Visintin. “While we collect evidence to identify the person responsible, we’re also working closely with faith leaders and community members to ensure everyone’s safety.”

In an email, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver says, “An individual poured fuel and set the doors on fire.”

Investigators are regarding the incident as a possible hate crime and believe an accelerant was used to light a fire at the front of the building. Luckily, there was no significant property damage, and members of the synagogue extinguished the fire before it spread.

The VPD is now positioning extra officers at numerous locations around Vancouver, including Jewish community centres, synagogues, and schools.

“We’re doing everything in our power to solve this crime while providing reassurance, comfort, and safety to the community,” adds Constable Tania Visintin. “We will continue to have a higher police presence in strategic locations throughout the coming days as this investigation unfolds.”

Vancouver’s mayor calls arson “horrendous”

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is calling the incident “horrendous” and says, “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.”

“This is an attack on a sacred place for Vancouver’s Jewish Community. To whoever has committed this crime, the VPD is using every resource they need to find and arrest you. We will not rest until you face justice.”

BC’s premier has also shared his thoughts on X, saying this act is “reprehensible & has absolutely no place in BC.”

B’nai Brith Canada outraged by act of antisemitism

In a statement, B’nai Brith Canada says it is appalled after the intentional fire at the synagogue.

“I was horrified to receive a frantic call from a community member that there was a fire burning at the entrance to the building,” said Aron Csaplaros, B’nai Brith Canada’s British Columbia regional manager. “This is a serious and dangerous escalation of antisemitic activity in Vancouver, and it is outrageous and repugnant.”

Antisemitic acts seen in other Canadian cities

B’nai Brith points out this is just the latest incident where a Jewish institution was targeted, and it happened just days after Jewish schools in both Montreal and Toronto were targeted with gunfire.

“We thank the Vancouver Police Department for their strong and supportive presence last night,” Csaplaros said. “And for all the work they have been doing to keep our community safe as hate and incitement towards Jews and Israel only continues to escalate.

Anyone with information or dashcam footage is asked to call VPD’s Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541.