Bouquets and chalk art outside BerMax Caffé and Bistro are helpful signs of Winnipeg’s support for the Jewish community after a racist attack at the restaurant on Thursday, says Ran Ukashi of B’nai Brith Canada.
“When you experience something like that, you often feel alone,” Ukashi said Tuesday morning. “It’s actually very heartwarming to see that there’s a big community reaction.”
A woman was assaulted at the restaurant with Jewish owners Thursday night and it was “severely vandalized,” with hate-related graffiti spray-painted inside, police have said.
On Tuesday morning, bunches of flowers and balloons lay on the pavement and decorated a railing outside the restaurant, which still has police tape up on the west side.
The words “Send love” and “Good vibes only” were drawn in chalk on the pavement on the north side of the restaurant.
“The good news is that people are expressing their outrage,” Ukashi said. “It’s not something that’s accepted.”
B’nai Brith, a Jewish advocacy group that runs a 24-hour anti-hate hotline, has received calls from people expressing concern and wondering what the attack means for Jewish people.
“In Manitoba, these kind of incidents are generally rare compared to, let’s say, Ontario or Quebec,” Ukashi said. “When it happens here, it’s quite a shock.”
People have said they can’t believe it’s happened here and they wonder whether they should be concerned and whether it’s a growing trend, he said.
“The anxiety is definitely palpable.”
Speaking out against hatred and racism is something everyone can do to fight it, Ukashi said.
“The more daylight you shine on it, the better, in our opinion,” he said.
“If you sweep it under a rug, people don’t understand that it is a problem, and [when] people don’t think it’s a problem, they don’t do anything about it.”
Reporting racism, both to police and to B’nai Brith at bnaibrith.ca/report or by calling 1-844-218-2624, is also important, Ukashi said.
While displaying a hate-related symbol or words on your own property isn’t illegal, police may find such people are connected to groups or activities that should be investigated more closely, he said.
B’nai Brith doesn’t think Canada’s laws need to be changed, but it would like to see the current laws more regularly enforced, Ukashi said.
While vandalism is understandably considered less serious than assault, if there is a hate-related component, it should get more resources, he said, because it might be a prelude to something more serious.
BerMax was hit by anti-Jewish graffiti several times before the assault and more extensive vandalism that happened Thursday.
“If someone thinks they can get away with a crime, they’re likely to do it again, but if we see that there are consequences for those actions, it acts as a deterrent both to would-be attackers and to those who have actually committed those attacks.”
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