On July 29, 2019 Jacob Shapiro, a Jewish young man from Montreal, Quebec posted on his Facebook page a detailed account of an incident that happened a day earlier at Tim Hortons café on Guy and de Maisonneuve. Here are excerpts from his post:
This is a (long) post about antisemtic hatred, and my experience last night being seen, [feeling someone] being hateful, being grateful, and being mindful.
Last night, I was sitting and working at Tim Hortons. I like to work at Tim Hortons, especially the numerous twenty-four hour Tims around the city. Ever since they started putting in electrical sockets in the walls about two years ago, I’ve basically never been back to Second Cup or Starbucks. I’m most comfortable at Tims, with its unpretentious Canadian hospitality and familiarity. And, by now, I’ve worked at a Tim Hortons at literally every single hour of the day. I’ve written some of my best (and worst) papers at Tim Hortons. I’ve brought backpacks full of books, and friends for conversation; I’ve brought lunch, dinner, and breakfast. I’ve even fallen asleep at Tim’s.
But, I doubt I’ll feel that comfortable again. Last night [July 28, 2019], a little before 11:30, I was sitting by the window when I noticed a man notice me. He was smoking outside and staring at me. His beard was well groomed, nice clothes. I looked up at him, and then back down at my phone. It felt strange. He was still looking at me, so this time I looked up again and I smiled. He was still looking at me. I was a bit annoyed. I couldn’t concentrate with him looking at me like that. I could feel it on me. I faked a yawn, and looked around the room turning my head to the left out the window to look at him again. He was still looking at me. How much longer until he is done his stupid cigarette.
He started taking pictures of me, my laptop, my food, my book. I tried to convince myself that this wasn’t a big deal. He started tapping on the glass. He wanted me outside. I was not going to go outside. I’ll just ignore him. He kept tapping. I ignored him. Maybe he was just unstable and would eventually move on to another window, I hoped. It still didn’t fully click that he wasn’t going anywhere, that he wasn’t like other people I have met at Tim Horton’s in the past, and that he wasn’t pointing at the guy sitting by the window. He was pointing at the Jew sitting by the window.
He pointed at me. He pointed at my kippah. He pointed at the sky. He made the throat-slitting gesture, more than once. A lot. He said things that made it very clear.
Now, he was banging on the glass and trying to get the attention of the four older Arab men sitting next to me so that they could help him. They shooed him away and continued their conversation. A younger white couple sitting a bit further back made some annoyed face at him. I couldn’t tell if the shooing and the face was for my sake, or just because his hatred was noisy and generally a nuisance, but either way I appreciated it.
“Call the police”, said the couple sitting on stools next to my table, “or at least film him.” I got up and took a seat with them, smiling apologetically for the interruption. They seemed concerned. “He saw your…” the man touched his head, “kippah” I said. He nodded, and encouraged me to call the police again.
I didn’t want to call the police. I didn’t want to make things into a bigger deal and disturb the people in the Tims more than I already did, or to make the guy more resentful to Jews than he already was. Part of me didn’t want the cops involved because I was worried that he would have to pay too dearly for this one mistake, while — at the same time– I was also worried that the police wouldn’t really care, nothing would happen, and he would be even more emboldened in his hatred.
I called my dad. I called him on my speaker phone, so that the man might not see me on the phone. I told him to wear a baseball cap. And, not to worry.
I spent the next twenty minutes fake smiling, fake yawning, looking over my shoulder, pretending to read the news and scrolling through apps on my phone. I wanted him not to think that I was scared. He spent the next twenty minutes staring, banging on the window, walking away to the corner so that maybe I might think the coast was clear and then back to the window again, and the familiar throat slitting gesture. He wanted me to be scared.
“Try not to look at him,” said the girl sitting at the counter with me, offering me one of her cookies. I thanked her, politely declined, and apologized again for the disturbance. The four arab men got up to leave, so did the young white couple further down. The room was emptier. I fake yawned again.
He was on the phone now. I was pretty sure he was asking friends to come. I could feel that he was talking about me. My dad walked in wearing his cap. And wearing his cap, he made it into the Tims undetected. We got up to go, and the guy sitting at the stool announced he was coming with us, walking us back to the car. That made me feel a lot safer.
The three of us walked by the man, still on the phone. Never turning our back to him. Staring straight at me for what was now just over the thirtieth minute, he repeats into the receiver “I won’t touch him, but he’s going to die,” stopping for a moment only to take a picture of my dad’s license plate.
I thank my new friend and apologize again. He walks back to the Tim’s stopping for a moment to exchange words with the man outside. I don’t know what they said, but we had stopped up ahead, waiting just to be sure that this kind, brown, Jew-accomplice made it back into the Tim’s.
When I got home, my mom hugged me and told me to wear a hat. “They wear hats in Europe. You can wear your kippah around Cote- Saint- Luc and Hampstead,” she said. I hugged her back and told her I’ll think about it. Instead, I thought about the Jew beaten up in Germany this weekend for wearing his kippah; I thought about the man shot at in front of a synagogue after evening prayers yesterday in Miami. I wondered if or how I would tell my grandparents, especially my grandmother. I wrote this, donated eighteen dollars to the National Bail Fund Network, and went to sleep.