Jewish communities across the United States bolstered their security for Passover in the wake of Sunday’s shooting attack at a Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.
JCCs nationwide are evaluating their security protocols, Fox News reported, and one Jewish communal official in New York confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that the NYPD has significantly increased security around local Jewish institutions for the holiday.
While “all indications are that the gunman acted alone,” David Pollock of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York said, “any time that there is such an attack, analysts are concerned about copycat incidents.”
“Jewish organizations should review their security protocols in advance of the holiday, be in touch with their local police authorities and be vigilant about any suspicious activities around their buildings,” he added.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Washington JCRC also coordinated with law enforcement to secure increased security in the capital, the groups said in a joint statement.
Following the shooting, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI held a joint security briefing with hundreds of Jewish leaders through the Secure Community Network, an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
While urging American Jews to continue their lives without undue fear, Paul Goldenberg, SCN national director, called for his coreligionists to “remain alert at our Jewish communal institutions and places of prayer.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents executive vice chairman, told the Post following the briefing: “We have sent messages reminding everyone of the steps to be taken,” Goldenberg was on his way to Kansas and “local police will step up their activities anyway [and] will be a visible presence.”
The JFNA stated that it will continue to lobby Congress for funding for the improvement of security “or at-risk nonprofit organizations throughout the country, including Jewish institutions” and that it would “do whatever is necessary to help the people of Kansas City through this terrible time.”
According to a report in the Jewish Daily Forward two years ago, 97 percent of funds allocated to anti-terrorism security by the DHS have gone to Jewish institutions. In an interview with the New York paper, then DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said that “there are risks attendant on the Jewish community that are not attendant on all other communities.”
The Anti-Defamation League, which issued to the press a lengthy biography of shooter Frazier Cross, said that while “authorities have not yet determined whether the incidents were a hate crime,” it will remain in touch with law enforcement officials during the course of the investigation.
Last week the ADL issued a security bulletin to communities across the country “warning of the increased potential for violent attacks against community centers in the coming weeks, which coincide with Passover and Hitler’s birthday on April 20, a day that in the United States has historically been marked by extremist acts of violence and terrorism,” the organization said in a statement.
While the ADL is “not aware of any additional threat to Jewish institutions at this time,” the organization’s St. Louis Regional Director said: “Nevertheless, it is appropriate for Jewish institutions to make sure that all of their security measures are in place and in good working order.”
Jewish organizations across the board decried the attack, as did the Ku Klux Klan, of which Frazier Glenn Cross was a member.
In an interview with USA Today, the white supremacist organization’s leader Frank Ancona denounced the shooting, calling it an “act of hate.”
“This senseless act of hate, which was perpetrated by a known racist, is a stark reminder that anti-Semitism is sadly alive and well in our own communities,” the National Council of Young Israel said in a statement.
“Bigotry and hate have no place in our society and we stand in unity with people across the United States in condemning this unconscionable and unfortunate shooting.”
One leitmotif apparent in all of the statements was the Jewish religious imperative to improve the world.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel of America spokesman, said: “Tragedies like this don’t have lessons, other than the old one we all know too well – that there is irrational, evil hatred of Jews out there.”
“What such terrible events do require of us, though, is to mourn the loss of life, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to empathize with those who have lost loved ones, and to redouble our efforts to help make the world a saner place,” he said.
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly said: “Though our [holiday] joy may be marred this year with sadness, we are resolute in our commitment to carry forth God’s covenant with the Jewish people to bring justice and goodness into the world and to honor the infinite value of every human being many times each day through our actions.”
“May we strengthen our commitment to eliminating the scourges of gun violence and hatred in our society so that no holy day in any faith or any day in the life of any person, shall ever be marred by this sorrow again,” he said.