Celebrating Hanukkah with Community

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair


Hanukkah was celebrated once again at Toronto Police headquarters with the lighting of a menorah.

In welcoming the Jewish community to headquarters, Deputy Chief Rob Johnson said it is a pleasure to share the joy of the festival together.

“It is important for us to celebrate Hanukkah with the community and for Jewish community members and our Jewish Service members to be able to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah in an inclusive space,” he said.

Deputy Johnson said the day celebrates unity with community members.

“I want to ensure that every community feels safe celebrating religious holidays. Toronto’s diversity of faith is one of this city’s strengths. Hosting the event at police headquarters underscores our commitment to fostering an inclusive environment and a sense of unity and celebration for all of us.”

Two people shake hands in front of a menorah
Deputy Chief Rob Johnson and Rabbi Mendel Chaikin Photo: Brent Smyth

Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner thanked the Toronto police Service for making the Jewish community feel safe in going about their daily lives following the terrorist attack in Israel.

“Since October 7, the Jewish community has lived each day with great apprehension,” he said. “The Toronto Police Service has been in our community as they have been all over our city. They have provided that level of reassurance that we can go about our lives, that we can wake up our kids in the morning and see them off to school safely, that we can go to work, we can go to shop and we can go to pray. This is fundamental to our rights as Ontarians.”

There has been a significant spike in hate crimes in the city since the events in the Middle East began October 7.

In addition to a visible frontline officer presence at demonstrations and Command posts set up on Bathurst Street to serve local communities, the Service has increased the size of the Hate Crimes Unit from a dedicated team of six officers to 21 investigators and eight Special Constables along with an analyst and a researcher position.

There has also been a visible police presence at local mosques and with a Command post setup at 4 Thorncliffe Park Drive to make it easier for the community to report hate crime and prevent crime.

In acknowledging Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) robust response to hate-motivated crime, City Councillor James Pasternak said its comforting to know that the police understand the significance of the crimes.

“As we struggle with the hate on our streets and the anti-Semitism in many cities, including this one, we are comforted by the knowledge that we have a police service which understands and cares,” noted Pasternak.

Michael Levitt, who with Inspector Paul Rinkoff, co-chair the Chief’s Jewish Consultative Committee, said the Toronto Police increased presence in Jewish communities in the city means a lot.

“Under your collective watch in the aftermath of October 7, we have seen Toronto Police step up admirably to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in the face of increased hostility and threats,” the Wiesenthal Centre President & Chief Executive Officer said.

“I call tell you as a member of the Jewish community in Toronto, we are incredibly grateful and it means so much to us to know that you are there, to know that the patrols are up and down Bathurst Street.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs Vice-President in the Greater Toronto Area, recognized Chief Demkiw’s leadership during this challenging period for Jews in Toronto.

Israel’s Consul General in Toronto Idit Shamir, who attended the celebration, heaped praise on Toronto Police.

“In Hanukkah, we light these candles to spread the light of truth and dispel the darkness that lies, to imbue the spirits of all Jews everywhere with the spirit of the Maccabees who fought back against villainy and tyranny,” she noted.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago, after a group of small group of Jewish fighters, the Maccabees, defeated the Seleucid Empire that had tried to impose their culture on the Jewish people.

When they lit the Temple’s menorah, miraculously a one-day supply of oil lasted eight days – creating the Hanukkah tradition. Lighting the menorah for eight days each year commemorates this miracle.

Rinkoff collaborated with B’nai Brith Canada, the League for Human Rights, Jewish organizations, Jewish community members and TPS members to develop a Toronto Police kippah that Service members can wear if they choose to do so.

“While we have always been supportive of our Jewish members who have chosen to wear a kippah, this recent addition enhances our organization’s commitment to inclusiveness and we know it means a lot to our members and communities,” said Deputy Johnson. “This is one more way we recognize and support our members’ heritage, culture and diversity. It also demonstrates that people of all faiths are welcome, respected and valued in the Toronto Police Service.”

Toronto Police Services Board Chair Ann Morgan and B’nai Brith Canada Chief Executive Officer Michael Mostyn also attended the event.

Man at podium
B’nai Brith Canada Chief Executive Officer Michael Mostyn displays the TPS kippah Photo: Brent Smyth

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