Service members once again shared in the celebration of Chanukah as a menorah was lit in front of 32 Division and the community welcomed into the station.
Superintendent Rob Johnson said hosting the celebration is an important gesture of trust and partnership with the community.
“To see the kids singing and smiling with their parents watching on is great to see, especially at this time of year,” Johnson said. “Toronto is a great city, a safe city and to come together with the community in a positive way is great for everyone involved.”
He said the police strive to support and represent every community and want to be trusted partners.
“We want to make sure that the Jewish community feels safe in Toronto and that the police are there to help,” he said. “Everyone in every community we police needs to feel they can come to the police for help.”
The north-end Division is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in North America, where you can see the footprint of the community in synagogues and local businesses.
Sgt. Lawrence Sager, a Jewish officer who spearheaded the menorah lighting seven years ago, said officers have embraced lighting the menorah each year and learning more about Chanukah.
“When a member of the Jewish community drives by the station they see the Menorah lit and see that the police are serving the community and recognize and understand our holidays,” Sager said. “Chanukah is all based on the miracle of light. It’s about peace for mankind. The police are all about ensuring there is peace in the community so it parallels our vision and goals.”
He said the Menorah and Chanukah celebration encourages trust in the community to report hate crime to police.
“People have often reached out informally to police through community leaders,” he said. “We want the community to know they should feel welcome to speak to any one of our officers. We want to show the community that we’re not going to tolerate anti-Semitism and that we’re with them.”
The community was welcomed back inside the station to continue in celebrating and get a chance for children to sit in police scout cars both vintage and new, a police motorcycle and see police horses up close.
The Uptown Chabad Hebrew School brought out a choir to sing before the Menorah lighting and organized crafts for the children afterwards, including assembling a cardboard menorah with messages from the children that will be set up outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that was attacked by a gunman in October that left 11 dead.
Rabbi Moshe Steiner said Chanukah commemorates a small band of Jewish people standing up to a regime that didn’t allow them to observe their religious traditions.
“The government at the time banned the observance of the Jewish traditions. Chanukah is the story of the victory of the small over the many. You may be small in numbers but if you’re committed to your values you will be victorious,” he said, noting now the Jewish community is welcomed to government institutions to celebrate their faith.
“Here we are being hosted by the police who are the enforcers of their law. So it’s an amazing contrast. What better way to celebrate the holiday than with the Toronto Police. The police are there to help us to partner with us to celebrate our traditions.”