As a Rabbi in Ottawa for the past nine years, Idan Scher frequently receives messages and phone calls from the Jewish community and the public at large.
So when his cellphone rang last Friday afternoon, he answered it like any other call. Except this one was different.
"I answered it, and pretty quickly realized what kind of phone call it was," Scher said.
For roughly four minutes, he listened to a man on the other end of the line rant about how the Jewish community supports Israel and are Zionists — therefore they are Nazis who need to be killed.
"I had an inkling to hang up, but then I was worried that maybe I would miss some important details that I could then share with the police," Scher said.
Ottawa police arrested and charged a 29-year-old man with various hate-motivated offences that targeted Rabbi Idan Scher from the Congregation Machzikei Hadas. (Jean Delisle/CBC)
The rabbi stayed on the phone and listened with only brief acknowledgements of the man's tirade. Immediately after the call — in which the man hung up on him — Scher called the police who took action the next day.
In a news release, Ottawa police said they charged a 29-year-old man with various hate-motivated offences, and he was scheduled to appear in court Monday.
The specific charges were not listed in the release.
'The threat is deeply disturbing'
While police have not identified the man, Scher saw his name and number displayed on his phone, which he says helped lead to the arrest.
"In part, this is a success story," Scher said, "We were able to get a person who was very threatening off the streets."
Last week, Ottawa police Chief Eric Stubbs condemned several recent hate-motivated crimes in the nation's capital targeting the Jewish and Muslim communities.
In response, Scher mentioned they've increased security at his synagogue. While he feels supported by police and his community, there's still a sense of nervousness.
"But being publicly, proudly, strongly Jewish in my identity, that is certainly not going to stop and I think as a community we do find support by being together," he said.
Karen Palayew, chair of the board of directors for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, describes Scher as a community leader and a dear friend, who is also her rabbi.
"The threat is deeply disturbing and has impacted, I'd say, everybody in the community," she said.
Increase in reports of hate crimes
Calls like the one made to Scher does not come as a total shock to Palayew. The Jewish community, she said, is facing a dramatic increase in antisemitism right now.
Police forces across Ontario say they've seen a spike in hate crimes since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched its attack on Israel — including spikes of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
"Hatred and threats of violence toward any individual or group of individuals does not belong on the streets of our country," Palayew said.
She adds the Ottawa Jewish community is finding support within each other to get through this "very painful period of time."
"I think bringing people together, standing in solidarity … It doesn't fix the problem but I think it brings comfort to people to be together," said Palayew.