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When Jewish Toronto Fought Back — 80 Years Ago

Image by toronto city archive

Was the carving of two swastikas into a Toronto golf course last weekend a random hate crime — or a twisted nod to history?

Police think it was a run-of-the-mill act of anti-Semitic vandalism. But some note the crime took place on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the historic Christie Pits riots, when Jews rose up in anger after being provoked by Nazi symbols.

According to the Toronto Sun, the Nazi carvings were found by a groundskeeper at the tony Richmond Hill Golf Club over the weekend. Police don’t think they have anything to do with the fact that Jewish groups were holding commemorations of the riots at the same time. The timing “is certainly coincidental,” a local police sergeant insisted to the paper.

The historic Christie Pits riots – which took place in a west Toronto park on August 16, 1933, erupted when a Nazi club taunted Jews with swastikas after a ball game.

“Members pulled out a swastika flag, while chanting ‘Heil Hitler’ near the end of a playoff baseball game involving mainly Jewish players,” the Sun wrote.

The riots were “a seminal moment for the old pre-multiculturalism Toronto,” according to a report in the Toronto Star this week.

“This was one time that Toronto’s Jewish community would not stand for the abuse, the Jew-baiting, which was quite prevalent in the city in those years just before World War II, when Adolf Hitler had just taken power in an economically flattened Germany and Nazism was ascendant,” wrote Star columnist Rosie DiManno. “This one time, Toronto’s Jews — the teen boys, at least — fought back.”

The now-defunct Toronto Telegram blamed the violence on “Jewish hooligans who started the whole thing,’’ DiManno noted.

To commemorate the riots, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) hosted “a friendly softball game” at Christie Pits last weekend. Organizers called it “an opportunity to not only to remember the past, but also celebrate the present,” according to CTV.

“We are here more to celebrate where we are – Toronto is the greatest city in the world … and [Canada] is an unbelievably safe and welcoming country for the Jewish community,” Jordan Kerbel of the CIJA told the network.

In the meantime, York Regional Police hate crimes unit has been called in to investigate the swastika carvings.

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