Yesterday was a wake-up call.
As we were finishing Shabbos morning services, word filtered into our shul in Cleveland about a synagogue shooting in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh with multiple casualties.
Along with my 5 brothers, my wife, and her 4 brothers, I spent my high school years in Pittsburgh. My wife and myself have multiple siblings, relatives, and friends who live in Squirrel Hill.
As it was Shabbos, nobody could use any electronic devices to find out exactly what happened and where. I thought back to the email I shared last month about a non-Jewish reader who shared how much he learned about the sacrifices made by observant people by reading this blog. I answered that I viewed those sacrifices as a feature, not a bug of being religious. However at a time when you don’t know if immediate family is safe, it does feel somewhat constraining.
After Shabbos we learned that 11 people died Al Kiddush Hashem, paying the ultimate price because they were Jews praying to G-d. And we heard from each of our relatives and friends that they were safe, including ones that shared a backyard with the Tree of Life.
After the horrific 2008 terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai, things started changing on a local level. The 4 grand synagogues in Cleveland that are part of one large campus went from being a beautiful showing of unity to a potential soft target. Police presence on Shabbos increased and many congregants with concealed carry licenses received permission to pack heat as well. In our shul we went from having 6 external doors open on Shabbos to having just one open door with a volunteer armed congregant serving as greeter and protector.
But is that enough to stop a Mumbai style coordinated attack or even a lone wolf?
I started this site while volunteering for a year as a bochur shliach, mentoring students in Sao Paulo back in 2004. We heard about the terrible crime there and that the head of the school’s father had been murdered when he refused to allow thugs into his house where his wife was at the time.
Many synagogues and apartment buildings there have antechamber rooms in which you are locked while a guard clears you for entry. Is that something that might be needed in the US?
Or is a dedicated guard enough to deter an attack?
I don’t have the answers, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes, Hashem yinkom damum. May their neshamas have an aliya.