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As Nj Synagogues Confront Yet Another Threat, Worship Transforms into an Act of Rebellion in the Form of “a Spiritual Call to Arms”
The doors to Rabbi Ariann Weitzman’s synagogue in suburban Montclair, New Jersey, have been shut “at all times” for the past four years. The Bnai Keshet congregation maintains a permanent security committee. To enter the building, worshipers must enter a code, or they must wait outside the door in the hopes that someone who knows them will see them.
Initially uncomfortable with the additional security measures, several attendees eventually became acclimated to the adjacent police presence. Weitzman claimed that there were officers nearby the synagogue “frequently.” She clarified, “All the time.
During religious services, a security guard who had previously been an unknown face served as a somber reminder of the difficulties Jews in the United States experience while attending synagogues and kosher marketplaces.
To all of our Jewish communities in New Jersey: We stand with you. In light of recent events, we will not be indifferent.
We will remain vigilant. And we will ensure that all New Jerseyans of every faith may continue to live, study, and worship without fear. pic.twitter.com/fCZnwrDjhb
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) November 4, 2022
Weitzman remarked that although “they do a little bit to help these folks feel better,” there isn’t really a security solution that can lessen the sense of existential peril. The FBI issued a warning about a “broad threat to synagogues” in New Jersey the day before Shabbat. Authorities declared on Friday morning that they had “discovered the source of the danger.”
The FBI’s Newark office announced shortly after 11 a.m. that the suspect “no longer posed a danger to the community” following a flurry of phone calls to worshippers and collaboration with law enforcement and private security personnel within the state’s Jewish communities.
In a trend viewed by American Jews as a reaction to the escalating tides of radical intolerance, synagogues in New Jersey and across the nation have increased security measures. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 34% more antisemitic events reported in 2021 than there were in 2020; the 2,717 occurrences reported in 2021 also established a record since the organization started keeping count in 1979.
Rabbi Leana Moritt of Temple Beth-El in Newark remarked, “The way society handles its Jews, it’s like the canary in a coal mine. It serves as a gauge of how well a society is doing. Congregation B’Nai Israel in Rumson, New Jersey, is led by Rabbi Douglas Sagal, who saw the threats as an existential threat to both American culture and Jews.
— Patrick J. Kennedy (@PJK4brainhealth) November 4, 2022
According to Sagal, the rise of anti-Semitism is a sign that society as a whole is ill. To be very honest, I worry about the future of our country. Even though federal authorities claimed to have eliminated the imminent threat to the synagogues in New Jersey, this did little to allay long-standing concerns. The shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, the shooting at a kosher shop in Jersey City in 2019, and other recent incidents have Jewish communities and their allies concerned that antisemitism has grown more evident.
But numerous Jewish religious authorities contacted by Gothamist on Friday highlighted the need to remain steadfast in the face of terrorism. Sagal added, “I believe one of the lessons we’ve learned is that there’s no value to yielding to antisemitism and threats. That remaining firm is the only right answer.
In response to the FBI’s new warning, Jewish leaders said they planned ahead of Shabbat services with the same level of attention they had been accustomed to in recent years—possibly with sharper notes.
Moritt stated that this course was not provided at the seminary. “This is not the reason we carry out the task we perform. Naturally, this is done to support and safeguard our people, but it takes us away from the task we do best. Nevertheless, we comply.
Jewish religious authorities claimed that many members had been “determined” to carry on as usual on Friday evening — a rejection of dangers Jews have been aware of for millennia. “I show up every day to work in a synagogue. Before the FBI revealed that the source of the threat had been located, Weitzman remarked, “I want to keep doing that for the rest of my career.” Nothing is more significant in my life than being a proud and outspoken Jew, she said.
Weitzman claimed that she supported safety measures that made it possible for her and her kids to do so. At the same time, Weitzman stated, “I see all of these dangers as a spiritual call to arms.” I simply need to speak up more about being Jewish in public.