Christians plan vigil for Winnipeg’s Jewish community after woman attacked, swastika spray-painted inside cafe

By | April 21, 2019

A city church is planning a vigil to support Winnipeg’s Jewish community after a violent anti-Semitic incident at a Winnipeg cafe that sent a woman to hospital and left the inside of a cafe vandalized with a swastika spray-painted inside.

The Westworth United Church is putting on a vigil Thursday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at its church on Grosvenor Avenue.

“It’s very comforting to see other groups taking on this initiative to hold a vigil to express their feelings about it rather than us doing it ourselves,” said Belle Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

Jarniewski said the church approached her after an employee at the BerMax Caffé and Bistro on Corydon Avenue was assaulted Thursday night and the business, which had been closed, spray-painted with hateful graffiti.

A Winnipeg Police Service officer takes a photo for evidence. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver told reporters on Friday the incident is being investigated by the major crimes unit as a hate crime in conjunction with a possible robbery and police have numerous teams assigned to the investigation.

“In all the years I’ve been doing this job I’ve actually never seen an incident quite like this,” Carver, a 26-year veteran of the force said.

“I think that the attack on the BerMax Caffe is the most violent and vicious anti-Semitic attack [in Winnipeg] and certainly in recent memory,” Jarniewski said Sunday.

‘Christian responsibility to stand in solidarity’ 

Westworth United Church Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd said people of all faiths are being invited to the vigil to come together in prayer to stand against anti-Semitism.

“It is our Christian responsibility to stand strongly in solidarity beside anyone who is the target of violence and to address the fear and hate that drives this intolerance,” she said in a news release.

Jarniewski said the incident highlights the unfortunate need and importance of having security at Jewish gathering places, which has become routine at buildings like the Asper Jewish Community Campus and synagogues.

“You know it brings home that, unfortunately, the danger of these types of attacks are there.”

“Other institutions such as you know a restaurant, in this case, would not necessarily have that high degree of security and therefore are targets for this kind of hatred.”

The incident at BerMax is the fourth at the cafe in the last five months. The previous three incidents involved graffiti.