For Joe Aisenstark, Saturday afternoon was Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. It wasn't until he had returned home from Synagogue and recited the Havdalah prayer that he received the message from the Montreal Arson Investigators, asking him to return their call. The message had been left at 6:00 AM.
Four hours earlier, Joe's wholesale kitchen cabinet showroom had been firebombed with two Molotov cocktails.
It was the fourth Jewish business to be hit by Molotov cocktails in the past nine days.
Café Shalom, a Kosher restaurant on Queen Mary St. was firebombed with two Molotov cocktails in the early hours of June 7th. On June 8th, at the same early hour, there was an attempted firebombing on the home of Reza Tehrani-Cohen, a Jewish businessman living in the Cote St Luc area of Montreal. The material found in his home was similar to the Cafe Shalom firebomb.
On June 9th, for the third night in a row, a Jewish business was hit with a Molotov Cocktail, just like the other ones. Except this time it was attacked around midnight, and this time there were 30 patrons in the restaurant.
Witnesses reported two masked men rushing into Chops, a Kosher restaurant two blocks from Café Shalom, throwing the Molotov cocktail, and running out. "Thank G-d he didn't throw the firebomb at the table in front of him where 15 people were sitting," said Alex Fyon, who was paying his bill when it was attacked, "or there would have been serious injuries."
With news of the attacks hitting international news, police were quick to assure the Jewish community that none of the attacks were motivated by anti-Semitism. The Jewish Federation issued a press release to the same effect. An article in the Toronto Star speculated that the firebombings may have been a "Kosher restaurant war."
But Saturday morning's attack, in which a Molotov cocktail was used and the business was also hit around 2:00 in the morning, was no restaurant. It was the same MO as the others, and there were five stores nearby but only Aisenstark's was targeted.
"Two Molotov cocktails were thrown inside. Thank G-d only one of them exploded or there would have been much more damage," said Aisenstark, "there is lots of water damage and the whole floor is ruined along with quite a few cabinets. I'm angry."
"I don't know why anyone would do this to me," he added, "I get along with everyone."
Police have not yet commented on the fact that Omar Bulphred, the man convicted of firebombing the Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish boys school and attempting to firebomb the Snowdon YMYWHA, was released on June 6th, just one day before the attacks on Jewish businesses started.
By Zvi Hershcovich