More than 500 people gathered in the Beth israel Beth Aaron Shul in Cote St Luc to attend a vigil for the terror attacks in Paris that killed 17 innocent people, including four Jews shopping for Shabbos in a Kosher supermarket.
The vigil was organized by the Montreal Board of Rabbis, Federation CJA and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Shul was protected with heavy security as Jews from all walks of life entered and took their seats.
Chazan Moshe Shur opened the event with a Kel Malei Rachamim for the victims of the Paris terror attacks. Federation CJA President Susan Laxer welcomed attending dignitaries and announced, “nous sommes tous Charlie et nous sommes tous Juif. We are with the people of France and the Jews of France. Am echad, Lev echad.”
Aurelia La Tareau, a spokesperson for Je Suis Charlie Montreal and one of the organizers of the unity marches which took place in Montreal, spoke out harshly against the terrorism. “Four victims were assassinated on Friday because they were Jewish,” she said. “This is unacceptable.”
David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy McGee, spoke on behalf of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, telling the crowd that our government stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. He called the actions of the terrorists “unspeakable stupidity, to think that you can kill an idea, that you can kill freedom.”
Birnbaum also noted that newspapers in Quebec, both English and French, were among the only ones in Canada to publish the offensive cartoons that led to the assassinations at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. And he mentioned the many moments of comfort, the massive unity marches all over France, here in Montreal and Quebec City.
The next speaker was Bruno Clerc, France’s Consul General to Montreal, who noted that the country of France would not be France without the Jews. The reason, he explained, is because one of the great French contributions to society is the emancipation, which allowed Jews to become an integral part of France. “If there would be no more Spanish people in France, we would still be France. But if there were no more Jews in France, we would cease to be France,” he stressed.
Israel’s new Consul General to Montreal and the Atlantic provinces, Ziv Nevo Kulman, had spent the morning at a “je suis Charlie, je suis Juif” rally in downtown Montreal. He spoke about the need for the world to take action on terrorism. “We need to strike at its roots,” he suggested. “The financial backers and countries who are financially supporting the terrorists.”
Rabbi Reuven Poupko emceed the event, but also spoke powerfully for a few minutes about the rise of Islamic terrorism. “It’s obscene that in 2015 Synagogues should close and the third largest Jewish community in the world should live in fear,” he stated. “We must tell people who enter our country that the prosperity and security you find in our countries isn’t coincidental to our values, it’s a product of our values.”
Rabbi Poupko also noted that the recent Parsha contains a verse which states “Kaasher yaanu oto ken yirbe veken yifrotz” (Shemos 1:24. The more the Israelites were oppressed the more they grew). “The more you harm us the stronger we get,” concluded Rabbi poupko, who then introduced the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre.
The mayor announced that he was going to call religious leaders to a meeting, adding that we must take action “We need to fight radicalism,” he said. “We must have zero tolerance toward fanaticism.”
The event closed with the reading of a letter that had been sent from Israel by Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler, and noted that what begins with Jews, typically doesn’t end with Jews. Then, Chazan Benyamin Stiefel led the crowd in O Canada and Hatikva.
Photos by Zvi Hershcovich