By JN Staff
Jew hatred in America strikes again. This time at a Poway, Calif., synagogue.
Six months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, Jewish communal institutions have been further “hardened” with bullet-proof glass, steel-reinforced self-locking doors and sophisticated surveillance equipment. Evacuation procedures have been established, escape routes identified.
Guns are no longer exclusively in the hands of the bad guys. Now, they can be found under the suits of hired protectors and occasionally strapped beneath a fellow congregant’s prayer shawl.
A far cry from days of yore, when expectations of security — if they existed at all — were relegated to unarmed, 300-pound men with deputy fire marshal-looking badges, squeezed into red mini-compacts with twirling amber beacons.
After Poway, we still feel vulnerable. In some ways, more so than after Pittsburgh. With anti-Semitism on the rise, we started taking our security more seriously. But the shock of 11 deaths at Tree of Life, the relatively easy access the killer had to the congregants and the absence of competent, armed protection, stoked our angst and accelerated our precautions.
The killer in Poway had a tougher time, but still succeeded. One dead. Three wounded, including the rabbi and an 8-year-old girl. Whether the Chabad-affiliated synagogue was “hardened” or not, he gained entry and fired several rounds from his weapon before leaving — perhaps fleeing when confronted by a good guy. Without some extra evacuation training, and a bit of luck, the casualty count could have been more catastrophic.
Welcome to the new reality. Hatred stoked by heated rhetoric that is turning angry thoughts into evil actions against our community. Poway reveals something we’ve known for some time … despite precautions, there is risk associated with living our lives.
In the coming weeks, we’ll walk for Israel, reflect on Holocaust Remembrance Day, pause on Israel’s Memorial Day and then celebrate its independence. We’ll present lifetime achievement awards, honor day school benefactors and alumni, celebrate 8 over age 80, recognize community activists, fete supporters of high school youth, convene for a blockbuster film festival and listen to an array of compelling speakers. We’ll attend bar and bat mitzvahs, graduations, tot Shabbats, consecrations and weddings.
Working with law enforcement and elected officials, our Jewish communal leadership and agencies will continue to improve the safety and security of our gathering places. Meanwhile, what are we to do? Quite simply, keep living our lives openly as Jews — albeit with added vigilance. And whether it’s a community-wide celebration or an intimate baby naming at a synagogue, defy the haters and keep showing up.