Jewish Facilities in US Urged to Tighten Up Security

Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 09:31 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Jewish communities across America are being urged to step up their security in the wake of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attacks across Europe and protests in the United States, according to The Times of Israel.

The tension has been heightened since Sunday when Jewish couple Steve and Barbara Gross Bernasconi awoke to find their cars covered in swastikas, the Nazi “SS” symbol, the words “white power” and other racist graffiti. Three tires were also slashed.

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While police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, the Anti-Defamation League has called on residents in the neighborhood to speak out against the hate-filled vandalism. After the couple posted photos of the attack on Facebook, dozens of people sent messages condemning the vandalism.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis and senior rabbi at Congregation Mt. Sinai in Brooklyn Heights, said that only authorized people can now gain entrance to the synagogue.

“We’ve maintained a higher level of security for a long time, but any time there’s a crisis in the Middle East we need to review measures,” he said. “Thankfully, the local police work closely with synagogues, JCCs and other Jewish institutions to provide necessary coverage.”

There has been a wave of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe following Israel’s deadly invasion of Gaza, along with a series of anti-Israeli demonstrations, many of them believed to consist of Palestinian or pro-Palestinian protesters.

“People are seeing what’s going on in Europe and think God forbid it should happen here,” said Don Cohen, program coordinator for Israel and International Affairs at the Jewish Community and Relations Council. “So, out of an abundance of caution, we are telling people to be more aware of their surroundings. Can something happen? Absolutely. We don’t expect it to, but the best thing you can do for yourself is not to look like a target.”

A bulletin issued last week by the Secure Community Network, a joint organization of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, warned that American Jewish institutions should increase their security.

The alert said that the institutions should consider seeking extra police patrols, limit access to synagogues to one entrance, monitor social media and reviewing cyber security, The Times of Israel said.

Cohen said that synagogue ushers should make sure they recognize all the members, and have a friend or family member welcome guests at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah service or celebration. Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, said, “Jewish institutions have expressed concerns, particularly about securing events from protests and other possible disruptions. We have also responded to hate crimes related to the conflict.”

Potasnik added, “We have to make sure that whatever happens there [in Israel] shouldn’t affect us here. We can have strong disagreements but no one should take security lightly during these tense times.”

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