Security measures increased, ‘vigilance’ urged by Hamilton Jewish group in fallout from attacks in Israel


Published October 13, 2023 at 11:19 am

Israel Palestine war Hamas
Smoke rises from an explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes on the border between Egypt and Rafah, Gaza Strip on Tuesday (Oct. 10). HATEM ALI/THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP PHOTO

A major non-profit Jewish organization in Hamilton says it has increased security measures and police presence around community buildings and events in response to the escalating Israeli-Hamas conflict, including a threat by a former Hamas leader calling for supporters worldwide to participate in a “day of mobilization.”  

However, the Hamilton Jewish Federation said that based on its discussions with Hamilton police and its security partners, there is currently “no known or specific local threat to Hamilton’s Jewish community.” 

Gustavo Rymberg, chief executive officer of the group, said a former leader of Hamas issued a recent statement calling for supporters worldwide to participate in a “day of mobilization” today (Oct. 13) in the name of “heroism and sacrifice.”

“The recent call for protests and support for Palestinians, along with the suggestion of people from neighbouring countries joining the fight against Israel by former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, has naturally raised concerns,” said Rymberg in an email to on Friday, Oct. 13. “Threats of any nature, especially those that can affect the well-being of our citizens, are taken with the utmost seriousness.”

Rymberg had issued an emailed statement Thursday that the group will still be “taking proactive steps to maintain and enhance security at all Jewish community institutions out of an abundance of caution.” 

He urged the community to exercise “a heightened degree of healthy vigilance and situational awareness.”

He said Jewish institutions should pay extra attention to ensure access controls and doors are locked.

Deadly terrorist attacks in communities across southern Israel last Saturday sparked security concerns. The surprise attacks by Hamas, a  militant Palestinian nationalist and Islamist group, prompted Israelis to retaliate with airstrikes. Hamas also took Israeli soldiers and civilians hostage. Hamas rules the Gaza Strip and aims to replace Israel with a Palestinian state. It is designated as a terrorist group by some countries, including Canada, the United States and Israel. 

The Jewish group said it immediately contacted Hamilton police and security partners at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and it believes law enforcement agencies, including those in Hamilton, are “well-prepared to respond to any situation that may arise.”

“Police currently advise regular activities continue in the Jewish community, and do not advise the closure of Jewish institutions or facilities at this time,” Rymberg said.

Rymberg said police are advising people to avoid counterprotesting during a pro-Palestinian rally that will be taking place at city hall on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m.  

The group said there is a multi-level coordination of efforts to ensure the security of Jewish people in Hamilton. 

It noted efforts it’s taking to monitor the situation, such as connecting with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which is continuing to monitor English, Arabic, and Farsi media and social media for concerning information. 

It said CIJA Security is receiving updates from various police services across Canada.

Community urged to report ‘concerning information’ directly to police

“If you see something, please say something. We ask community members to report concerning information directly to the police by calling 911,” Rymberg said.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc issued a statement Thursday on X about the situation. He said he was in close contact with Jewish community leaders across the country and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in efforts to keep Jewish communities safe.

“I have every confidence that they are treating these concerns with the utmost importance and will continue to exercise heightened vigilance around places of significance to the Jewish community.”

He said Hamas is a terrorist organization under Canadian law. “There is no place — and there will never be any place — for the glorification of violence or terror, here in Canada or around the world. Under no circumstances will it be tolerated.”

“Canada stands in solidarity with Jewish communities across the country, who are feeling especially vulnerable ahead of the Hamas-led call for mobilization around the world.”

Hamilton police also said they’re closely monitoring the situation.

“We have increased our presence around religious sites in our ongoing engagement with faith communities to offer comfort, support and security,” they said in a statement yesterday (Oct. 12).

In the wake of Hamas’s attacks last weekend, Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama received backlash for her social media post on the Israeli-Hamas conflict, a statement that others have criticized for being anti-Semitic and for initially failing to mention the Hamas terrorists’ recent attacks on civilians in Israel. 

Though she didn’t take down the controversial post as of today (Oct. 13), she has since apologized for failing to denounce the violence against Jewish Israelis. Her apology and statement to clarify her position followed calls for her to retract her statement from Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles. Ontario Premier Doug Ford had also called for her resignation.

I unequivocally condemn terrorism by Hamas on thousands of Israeli civilians,” Jama said in her apology on X on Tuesday, Oct. 10. “I also believe that Israel’s bombardment and siege on civilians in Gaza, as was also noted by the United Nations, is wrong.”

Rymberg of the Hamilton Jewish Federation said in an email to that he was “deeply disturbed by individuals who openly support the Hamas cause, especially when these individuals hold positions of political leadership.” He noted Jama’s initial statement as an example. “Supporting a terrorist group like Hamas, raises legitimate concerns about the impact such support may have on local stability and security.”

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