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This article was published 3/2/2019 (349 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg police hate crimes detectives are investigating after a Jewish café in the city was the target of anti-Semitic graffiti.
"It’s a very scary thing," said Maxim Berent, a member of the family that owns BerMax on 1800 Corydon Avenue. He and the staff discovered "Jew" spray-painted in black on the eatery and its fence when they opened the café early Friday.
"When we came in at 8 a.m., there was graffiti on our window and fence in our parking lot," said Berent, the spokesman for the hip café that’s owned by an Orthodox Jewish family. "It was shocking," he said.
They called police and got to work preparing for Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. Police officers showed up at about 3 p.m, just as they were closing, he said.
It’s the second time in recent weeks that they were targeted by ant-Semitic graffiti, and the fourth time they were vandalized since opening four years ago, Berent said.
Two weeks ago, they had graffiti spray-painted on their front window, which faces Corydon Avenue, he said.
"Police were aware of that but they didn’t come," Berent said.
A year ago, they had a rock thrown at the window and a couple of months after opening — in the heat of summer and again overnight sometime — the restaurant was pelted with eggs.
This time, police are looking into the vandalism and treating it as an anti-Semitic attack.
"The incident is being reviewed by hate crimes detectives in the major crimes unit," Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jay Murray said Sunday.
Other organizations are taking it seriously, too, said Berent.
"The Jewish Federation (of Winnipeg) is involved, after what happened in the States in Pittsburgh," he said referring to the ant-Semitic mass shooting at a synagogue in that city in October in which 11 people were killed and seven were injured.
B’nai Brith Canada is also looking into it, said Berent. The annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents by B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights showed that anti-Jewish hatred has increased in the past five years, culminating in peak levels in both 2016 and 2017.
The recent show of hate in Winnipeg has many in the Jewish community on edge. "It’s knowing someone who has so much hate to write something like that," said Berent.
"We’re known as being at the centre of Jewish community," the restaurateur said. The place is also popular with others who go for the food and the ambiance, he said.
"We have a very mixed crowd. Our menu is very Middle Eastern," said Berent who immigrated to Canada from Israel 14 years ago.
Customers’ response to the graffiti has been the same regardless of the their faith, he said.
"They’re shocked and very angry that someone wants to bring harm to this business," he said. "It’s not fair."
That kind of hatred towards people because of their race or creed shouldn’t happen in multicultural Canada in this day and age, he said. "It’s not who we are." It’s especially unnerving for people who lost family members in the Holocaust, said Berent, who is one of them.
He points to a survey published on Jan. 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day, that shows more than half of Canadians and nearly two-thirds of young people in this country do not know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
The findings show "critical gaps" in knowledge, especially among younger people," said Schoen Consulting of New York, which conducted the poll. In Europe, another poll found that Jews believe anti-Semitism is on the rise there and nearly half plan to leave.
The 2018 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights — the largest ever conducted among Jewish people — found that 90 per cent of respondents believe anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout Europe. Of the 16,395 respondents, nearly 40 per cent said they plan to emigrate because they do not feel safe.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Updated on Sunday, February 3, 2019 at 5:28 PM CST: Updates photos
11:47 PM: Edited