A Toronto synagogue’s online prayer service was interrupted on 19 April with antisemitic messages including “Hitler was right,” Rabbi Chaim Strauchler of Shaarei Shomayim synagogue has confirmed. Like most Jewish institutions, the synagogue’s activities have been moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The WJC-affiliated Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) condemned the incident and affirmed that it was in contact with other minority groups to discuss steps to combat the threat. CIJA also announced plans to meet with government officials about the issue.
According to Rabbi Strauchler of Shaarei Shomayim, around five individuals appeared on the online session screaming “derogatory” comments about the Holocaust, and Jews and exposed the congregation to explicit images on their computer screens. Rabbi Strauchler added that the experience was “traumatic” for all participants, including a Holocaust survivor and Bar Mitzvah boy.
Despite the incident, Shaarei Shomayim continues to hold daily prayer services online, albeit with new security protocols. Participants are now sent to a virtual “waiting room,” where they are screened before accessing the prayer service.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino described the episode as a "cowardly, offensive and deeply inappropriate intrusion on what should have been a moment of prayer, quiet contemplation and renewal."
A spokesman for Toronto police confirmed that the incident is under investigation as a hate crime and police are working with Zoom — the online platform which the synagogue used for their service — to track down the instigators.