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Death threats, antisemitic messages targeting Jewish Toronto university student seen on school walls

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A Jewish student at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCAD) says she feels unsafe returning to class after antisemitic messages, including death threats, were scribbled on the walls of her school.

“I had never felt so sad in my life,” Samantha, who also goes by Sam, told CTV News Toronto in an interview after first discovering the messages.

“They were all like horrible things about me, horrible things about Jews.”

Sam, who is the former president of the university’s Jewish Club, said the messages were found in the school’s so-called “yellow staircase” – a six-storey space where students are encouraged to express themselves freely on the blank wall space.

When she first saw the messages, Sam said she tried to combat the hate with painted words of peace, but those, too, were covered up by messages like “F U Zionists.”

“I started getting death threats. There was even sexual connotations relating to my mother and Hamas,” she said.

Hillel Ontario, an organization aimed at promoting Jewish student life in the province, called on university leaders in a statement to do more to combat antisemitism in its schools.

“The appalling way in which Samantha was targeted at OCAD, unfortunately, follows an alarming and unacceptable pattern that Hillel is tracking across Ontario campuses whereby Jewish students are singled out and demonized for simply being Jewish.”

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, OCAD said: “Discrimination in all forms, including antisemitism, is completely against the values of OCAD University.”

A spokesperson for the school added that the university cooperated with a Toronto police investigation and removed the graffiti “as soon as it was reported.”

“OCAD U has been supporting the impacted student throughout this process,” the university added.

Meanwhile, Sam says she has not received an adequate response from the school following the incident and has missed more than two weeks worth of class due to concerns about her safety.

“There were talks about a meeting three weeks ago and they still haven’t followed up about that,” she said. “It took them forever. It took them days to shut down and paint over the stairwell.” 

Earlier this year, Toronto police released data on reported hate crimes in 2023. It showed that of the 353 reports made to police, at least 37 per cent were antisemitic, which Police Chief Myron Demkiw said at the time accounts for the most hate-motivated offences against any one group in the city.

With files from CTV News Toronto's Janice Golding

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