A brutal, unprovoked assault on two Orthodox Jewish men outside a synagogue was a hate-motivated crime, Toronto police said today after investigators could find no other motive.
The 66- and 79-year-old victims, beaten Friday night with a lead pipe, tried to fend off blows to the head and face as they lay on the ground. The older victim is a Holocaust survivor.
Both men were released from the hospital with minor injuries. One had a broken nose.
Their two attackers, described as white with short hair, did not speak or take anything from the victims, leaving police to conclude that the crime was based on ethnic origin.
The attack followed last week's shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish community center, where five people were wounded by a gunman who later gave himself up to police. Afterward, several Jewish leaders across North America warned of possible copycat violence.
Keith Landy, chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said that in his 15 years as a member of the congress he had never heard of an unprovoked assault on members of Toronto's Jewish community, although synagogue vandalism is common.
"We hope this is an isolated incident," he said. "We used to think that Canada would be above this activity, but we certainly know better."
Toronto Police Service Board reported last week that hate crimes were up about 20 percent in the first half of this year. The report said that 110 such crimes were reported from January to June, up from 92 in the same period of 1998.