Bomb threat closes Ottawa Jewish school

An Ottawa Police car sits outside the Jewish centre.
An Ottawa Police car is seen outside the Soloway Jewish Centre on Oct. 11, 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

Ottawa’s Jewish Community School was forced to close on Tuesday after a bomb threat was reported.

A letter sent to parents said the anonymous threat was received through a generic channel on Oct. 31.

“Upon receiving the threat, the Ottawa Police were immediately contacted, and they swiftly initiated an investigation to assess the situation,” the brief letter read.

Ottawa Police said an on scene investigation determined their was no threat to public safety.

“Officers remain in close contact with community members. The matter remains under investigation,” they said in a statement.

In a statement sent to KT, the Ottawa Jewish School said this incident is a reminder that all Canadians have a role to play in teaching and learning about the past.

“The incident is a tragic reminder that the Jewish community must remain vigilant at a time of increased antisemitism in not only the Middle East, but also here in Canada and around the world,” said Dr. Jon Mitzmacher, head of the school. “Jewish schools should not have to consider being open as an act of courage and Jewish parents should not have to consider sending their children to school as an act of bravery.”

Mitzmacher also said Nov. 1 marks the beginning of Holocaust Education Month. He said everyone has a role to play in standing up against those “who preach hatred and incite violence.”

On Nov. 1, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) confirmed they were investigating multiple bomb threats across Eastern and Northern Ontario targeting multiple schools and other facilities. It’s unclear if the incidents are related.

Rise in hate-motivated incidents

Ottawa has seen a rise in Antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents.

A photo was recently shared to the platform X, formally known as Twitter, showing a sign reading “F—k Israel” painted on a street in the Craig Henry neighbourhood.

Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs wrote in a statement that several concerning hate-motivated criminal incidents including graffiti, vandalism, hate mail, threats and a potential threat to public safety, have been reported.

The incidents have targeted both the Jewish and Muslim communities in Ottawa, he said.

“Hate speech, symbols and other hate-motivated incidents are unacceptable. Those incidents can have a lasting impact not only on those who have been targeted, but throughout the neighbourhoods and communities where they occur,” Stubbs wrote.

“The Ottawa Police has zero tolerance for hate-motivated incidents,” he added. “The Hate and Bias Crime Unit fully investigate all reported incidents. We will prosecute those who commit hate crimes to the full extent of the law.”

Police continue to be present outside of the Ottawa Jewish Community School on Nadolny Sachs Private, near Broadview and Carling.

In a previous interview with KT, Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, said members of their community are staying vigilant after the recent attacks.

“I think the community is quite frightened and on edge. We increased security protocols, we are grateful to Ottawa Police services for all their efforts,” Freedman said.

Freedman also said she was “disgusted and angry” to see pro-Palestine protests playing out in the nation’s capital, saying they are “glorifying” babies being massacred and senior citizens being shot in their beds.

The Israel-Hamas war is intensifying as calls grow louder for a ceasefire. As of Nov. 1, 1,400 people have been killed in Israel with another 8,525 Palestinians killed in Gaza.

Freedman said civilian casualties will unfortunately be part of the war, and said her heart is also with the Palestinian people.

“We should have tremendous compassion for the Palestinian people who are casualties of Hamas’ violence. We have to remember who is to blame here and that’s the terrorist entity Hamas,” she said on Oct. 11.

“We have to remember who is to blame for those civilian casualties,” Freedman added. “It’s not the Israeli defence force. Its Hamas terrorists who have deliberately imbedded themselves in civilian populations putting them at harms way. The coming days and weeks are going to be really difficult.”

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