Following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, not many people know about the historic Canadian anti-semitism against the Jewish community of Quebec City, but it is in my book “Double Threat” about the experiences of Canada’s Jewish community before and during WWII. It is a story my own family knows well.
In May 1944, when the new Beth Israel Synagogue in Quebec City was finally built, after years of obstruction by the city and by local neighbours, on the eve of the consecration ceremony, on May 21, 1944, arsonists torched the building, while people were in it.
Our Uncle Sydney Lazarovitch, a Quebec City lawyer, was at the synagogue and discovered the fire, and my grandfather, Abraham Lieff, travelled from Ottawa to be there for the dedication ceremony, which went ahead as planned, once the fire was out May 22, 1944.
The fire caused $10,000 damage.
The arson attack, the anti-semitism in Quebec City, and a subsequent official inquiry, was front page news across Canada…and in the House of Commons, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King talked about it, and Canadian Jewish Congress said “it was an act of arson against a house of worship” and “this sacrilegious violence is a warning to all Canadians that Nazi race prejudice and anti-religious teaching exist here.”
Those words ring true even more today.