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Bomb Detonated at Quebec Synagogue

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MONTREAL, May 20 (JTA) -- A synagogue in Quebec City has become the third Jewish house of worship in Canada attacked this year. A bomb exploded Sunday morning at Beth Israel Synagogue, the only synagogue in Quebec City, but caused no injuries.

The blast shattered windows, damaged a door and left black powder stains on the walls of the single-story stucco building.

A 27-year-old man was arrested in connection with the blast. Police described him as mentally unstable, adding that he was found uttering anti-Semitic remarks in the area after the explosion.

Following Sunday's attack, the premier of Quebec, Bernard Landry, phoned local Jewish leaders to voice outrage and offer support.

In April, arsonists struck historic synagogues in Toronto and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to holy books and property.

Also this year, vandals have defaced numerous other Jewish buildings, including the Toronto headquarters of Reena, a Jewish charity for the disabled. The attacks are believed to be linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Quebec City's dwindling Jewish community of about 100 people has not experienced an anti-Semitic attack for eight years, when its cemetery was desecrated.

"We were lucky no one was hurt," the synagogue's president, Simon Jacobs, said after Sunday's attack. "It is not right, what happened here. We want to live in peace with our neighbors. This is worrying. I hope it is an isolated case," Jacobs added.

The synagogue's spiritual leader, Rabbi Aaron Sultan, was in Montreal with his wife. They were seeing their son off to Israel when the bombing occurred.

Meanwhile, members of Montreal's Jewish community also are concerned about a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

Following a massive rally in Montreal last month, when some 25,000 people celebrated Israel's Independence Day, several young Jews were denied service by the owner of a Second Cup franchise, a coffeehouse chain similar to Starbucks.

When the young Jews entered, carrying rolled-up Israeli flags, the store's owner made anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments and told them to leave.

Second Cup's Toronto headquarters immediately issued an apology. Another incident occurred the next week in Ottawa, where a pro-Israel rally drew an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people.

Following the rally, several young Jews were verbally abused, chased and threatened by security guards when they attempted to enter the Rideau Centre, the city's major downtown shopping mall. The guards also made anti-Semitic remarks.

Police had to intervene to protect the young Jews.

Also last month, a Jewish doctor was assaulted and suffered a broken shoulder at a pro-Palestinian rally in Toronto. The next day, a Holocaust survivor was pelted with an egg at a pro-Israel rally in Mississauga, Ontario. Police arrested Palestinian Canadians at both events.

"There is no reason to transplant disagreements with Israel here," Joseph Gabay, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress' Quebec region, said following Sunday's attack in Quebec City.

"Even when people disagree with politics, they should not translate that into acts of violence. We live in a society with zero tolerance for violence."

Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
Bram Eisenthal

Bram Eisenthal is a career freelance writer and publicist, currently handling communications for Canada's oldest traditional synagogue, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. He has been JTA's Montreal correspondent since 1990.

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