‘Educating away the hate’: Holocaust educator reacts to Fredericton synagogue vandalism

    Still of the damage caused to the Sgoolai Israel Synagogue located at 168 Westmorland St. (Submitted: Aynett Kranat)

    On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Sgoolai Israel Synagogue in downtown Fredericton was vandalized in an alleged act of antisemitism.

    Police responded in the morning to find multiple windows broken. These acts are disheartening for members of the Jewish community, including Jasmine Kranat.

    Kranat is the director of the Atlantic Canada Holocaust Education Foundation and described the vandalism as “heartbreaking.”

    “I woke up that morning and received a phone call … ‘There’s been vandalism at the synagogue,’” she said. “It’s like a pit in my stomach because I’ve taken hundreds of students to that synagogue to teach them about the Holocaust.” 

    Kranat and others did not find the vandalism taking place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day as a coincidence.

    Kris Austin, Minister of Justice and Public Safety, said in a statement that “this cowardly antisemitic attack was all the more heinous as it took place as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

    Austin also mentioned the rise in antisemitism in Canada and across the world since Oct. 7.

    Related: ‘We’re all in this together’: Vigod lecture on rise of antisemitism in Canada

    Fredericton West-Hanwell Member of Legislative Assembly Dominic Cardy said on X, “on the day of the liberation of Auschwitz. On the Sabbath. I am so ashamed. I will do everything in my favour to fight back.”

    Kranat mentioned previous vandalism at the synagogue, “but nothing to this magnitude.”

    “I didn’t think it was a coincidence, but I just don’t know what to think anymore,” she said. “We’ve gone so long without any vandalism … there’s been swastikas in the past spray painted.”

    The vandalism hits home with Kranat as she was the victim of a physical assault in 2006 on a bus in London. Following the attack, Kranat and her family immigrated to Canada. 

    “I was beaten up on a bus in London, England for the looks of being a Jew,” said Kranat. 

    After moving to Canada, Kranat started the Atlantic Canada Holocaust Education Foundation. The foundation displays an exhibit for students in partnership with the New Brunswick department of education and hosts public displays.

    The exhibit “humanizes” the timeline of the Holocaust and has been an effective education tool. Kranat receives reflections from each student at the end of the exhibit, with some students vowing to fight antisemitism wherever they see it. 

    A Grade 8 student’s reflection said, “I have always told Jewish jokes and Holocaust jokes, but now I realize how serious they are.”

    Kranat also had a student in Saint John, N.B. promise to prevent antisemitism. 

    “He made a promise to me that he would not allow any of his friends to tell a Jewish or Holocaust joke again. That’s not the only time that has happened,” she said. “They realize what they’ve been saying is antisemitic, they are sorry and they are going to be an upstander.”

    According to Statistics Canada, the most targeted group in Canada for hate crimes is the Jewish community with 502 police-reported hate crimes in 2022. There were 331 reported in 2020 and 492 reported in 2021. For Kranat, the rise in antisemitism is felt beyond the numbers.

    “I’m seeing it everywhere. I’m seeing it in my everyday life. It’s motivated me to continue doing this work, but it’s very much everywhere.”

    Kranat believes education is powerful and thinks that if someone – like her attackers in London – are taught to hate Jews they can also be taught differently. 

    “I am a true believer of educating away the hate. A huge part of combating antisemitism is working with the non-Jewish community, having them in our space and having them as allies, also educating and having space for dialogue.”