Washago, Ont. family targeted with hate-motivated vandalism, threatening letter

Published Nov. 1, 2023 1:42 p.m. ET
Updated Nov. 4, 2023 10:29 a.m. ET

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Warning: Some of the content in this article may be upsetting to readers.

A Washago, Ont. couple says they are victims of a hate crime after vandals spray-painted anti-Semitic words on their home and left them a threatening letter.

Ryan Merovitz and his wife have called the town north of Orillia home for eight years and are in shock over the apparent act of hate.

"I go to bed now thinking worse possible scenarios and what would we do like if someone were to set a fire. How do I get everyone out?" said Merovitz.

Merovitz said they noticed two unknown men on their property in early October, who returned a few weeks later.

"One of the men had his hands on the window trying to look inside while the one behind him was actually taking pictures of our mezuzah on our door," he said.

A mezuzah is a small piece of parchment inscribed with religious text placed on a Jewish house as a sign of faith.

Merovitz said the two men fled the property when they realized someone was home.

This past Saturday, Merovitz said the family returned home to find graffiti spray-painted on their garage door, home and property.

And another incident of anti-Semitic messages was reported to the police on Tuesday.

A letter written in black marker and taped to the Merovitz's garbage bin reads, "You and your Jewish family are going to die!"

"Never once did I ever imagine something like that happening here. The fact that it happened in small-town Ontario, that tells me it will happen anywhere," Merovitz said.

"I'm disgusted, absolutely disgusted," said community member Dianne McCarthy of the graffiti on the house.

Last month, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) issued a release assuring Ontarians of its focus on safety amid global online threats of violence in the wake of the deadly Israel-Hamas conflict.

"The OPP takes hate-motivated crimes very seriously as they undermine public safety, negatively impact our communities and can escalate toward criminal extremism," the service stated in a Wednesday release about the Washago vandalism.

Police investigators were at the Washago house on Wednesday searching for clues. They said the Hate Crime Extremism Unit is now involved.

"Hate-motivated crimes are illegal and unacceptable. We will not tolerate these incidents in our communities. We encourage anyone with information to come forward. All tips will be thoroughly investigated," stated Insp. Coyer Yateman, detachment commander.

"My biggest problem is when people can't separate a conflict that is happening 6,000 miles away from a family in a small town that has nothing to do with it. I have nothing against anybody. If you're a good person, then you're my friend," Merovitz said.

The Merovitz's said they refuse to succumb to fear or intimidation, resolving to keep their mezuzah on their front door. They plan to host a community barbecue on Saturday for those who have shown support since the incident.


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