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Jewish community in Vaughan reeling and in mourning after attack on Israel

Jewish community rally for support after Oct. 7 attack
Oct. 16, 2023
Brian Capitao

The world was horrified by the actions of Hamas recently as the organization attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7.

World leaders have condemned the attack, and some have likened it to 9/11.

The catastrophe has left people reeling and Vaughan’s Thornhill residents have expressed great concern.

“There's always a range of emotions when anything of this nature occurs. But when dealt with the magnitude and the ferocity and the intensity of it -- It's really unprecedented in my lifetime and really in the lifetime of the state of Israel,” said Rabbi Elisha Mandel, who runs the Thornhill Woods Shul synagogue.

“I mean, it's basically like a pogrom in Europe,” he added.

Mandel has heard from congregants that they know of friends who were among the dead who attended a music festival, one of the first places hit by Hamas.

“She was bawling and bawling,” said Mandel concerning a phone conversation he had.

“You have to understand that Israel is not a big country. And everyone knows someone who knows someone,” Mandel told

Tensions are high and local residents would like something to be done.

This was made clear at a committee of the whole meeting on Oct. 11, where city council passed a members’ resolution co-authored by Thornhill councillor Gila Martow and Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca.

“Jewish residents are fearful, and have written to the city, greatly concerned about the safety of their children here at home, given the unthinkable acts of terrorism taking place in Israel and elsewhere. Our resolution requests that York Regional Police take all necessary actions, such as establishing safety zones, to protect our local Jewish community, specifically, at places of worship, schools, and community centre, among others,” said Del Duca.

According to Del Duca, “Vaughan is home to one of the largest Jewish populations outside of Israel” and has a long-standing relationship with the country.

Other levels of government are also doing what they can to provide aid. The federal government is aiding Canadians to evacuate Israel as the conflict intensifies.

“(We) are glad to see that Minister (Melanie) Joly has finally listened to our calls to provide evacuation flights for Canadian citizens wanting to leave Israel following the horrific terrorist attacks committed by Hamas over the weekend,” said Melissa Lantsman, member of Parliament for Thornhill in a news release.

For Mandel, he would like to see more unity within the Jewish community.

“We don't have to agree on everything, but we have to get along. We must get along. For the sake of the people of Israel and for our own futures,” said Mandel.

Mandel thinks it’s a turning point.

“I think it will change Israel. I think it will change the government. I think it will change a lot of people's perspectives on what human beings are capable of,” said Mandel.

Some think only violent retaliation can be the response.

“The assault on democracy and the Israeli people must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We must stand with victims against unspeakable Hamas terrorism,” said Stephen Lecce, MPP for King-Vaughan.