As the city of Calgary, Alberta, confronts a plethora of anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish institutions in the mountainous metropolis, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a stinging rebuke of a phenomenon plaguing his hometown.

“Anti-Semitism is a disease of the soul,” said Harper, who represents the area as a Member of Parliament for Calgary Southwest. “Its odious manifestations, in any form and however rare, can never be tolerated in Canada.”

Harper’s statement came a day after Jewish community members discovered graffiti on the Chabad-Lubavitch Centre, the Holocaust War Memorial, the Calgary Jewish Centre, the House of Jacob, and mailboxes, signs, benches, bus stops and fences in the neighborhoods of Woodlands-Woodbine and Pump Hill. At the time, the prime minister had been travelling to Mumbai, India, where he toured the remains of the city’s Chabad House one year after terrorists laid siege to the financial capital.

Last week, some 500 residents rallied at the Boyce Theatre of the Calgary Stampede Grounds to protest the vandalism.

“We are all members of the Jewish community tonight,” Ruth Ramsden-Wood, president and CEO of the local chapter of the United Way told the crowd.

Reached at his office, Rabbi Menachem M. Matusof, director of Chabad of Alberta for the past 21 years, said the attacks shocked people throughout the city.

“This incident was unique, because in one night, they raided the Jewish community in Calgary,” he explained. “This really shook up the system, the police and the people in our community. It all seemed very organized.”

According to the Calgary Police Service, two suspects are currently being investigated for the crimes. If accused, the offenders will face charges of both property damage and hate-motivated mischief to religious property.

“The police service is outraged that this happened and we want to make sure that this does not happen again,” said Constable Brian Denison, the police department’s hate crimes coordinator. “We want all such crimes to be reported so that we can send out the message that this won’t be tolerated. We’re behind the Jewish community and we’re putting in all the resources we can to resolve these hate crimes.”

A Single Voice

According to Matusof, security cameras at the Chabad-Lubavitch Centre have provided police with footage of the attacks. Matusof has applied for a $30,000 federal grant to further enhance the building’s security system.

Marvin Levant, a Calgary resident, was one of the residents who also found anti-Semitic graffiti outside of his property. He was pleased with the local support and coverage of the incidents in the regional press.

“I wasn’t terrified, I was just concerned,” said Levant. “[The vandals] are an extremely small group and are not the real threat. The graffiti on my property was easily covered by spray paint and was cleaned up within 24-hours.”

The graffiti at Matusof’s center, however, took a professional graffiti-removal company three visits and many hours to remove.

Shael Gelfand, another Calgary resident, echoed Levant’s sentiments of unease about the incidents.

“I’m deeply concerned, but certainly not shocked,” said Gelfand. “I consider this a very serious matter. The community needs to respond in a single voice and make sure that the broader community shares our concern. We have to be as strong and vocal as we can.”

For Matusof, the best response to anti-Semitism is twofold.

“First of all, we must not give into the darkness and must strengthen our Jewish pride,” he explained. “At the same time, we must be alert. We should have the best security in place.”