Po­lice watch over places of wor­ship

Pitts­burgh shoot­ing at tem­ple brings more pro­tec­tion at lo­cal sites

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Sat­ur­day morn­ing wor­ship ended at Tem­ple Oheb Shalom near Pikesville and the con­gre­gants walked out, turned on their cell­phones and con­fronted tragedy.

Text mes­sages and phone calls told them of a mass shoot­ing at a syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh. By then, Ken­neth David­son, di­rec­tor of Tem­ple Oheb Shalom, was al­ready check­ing to en­sure that his busy lo­cal cam­pus was safe.

Soon a Bal­ti­more po­lice car was parked out­side as a pre­cau­tion. Po­lice around Bal­ti­more and its sub­urbs have in­creased pa­trols near syn­a­gogues since the shoot­ing.

“What goes through my mind first is pro­tect­ing my con­gre­ga­tion,” said David­son, a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer. “It just re­minds us that it can hap­pen any­where.”

The con­gre­ga­tion, he said, was shaken by the news from Pitts­burgh. A gun­man had stormed into a baby-nam­ing cer­e­mony and opened fire, killing 11 peo­ple and wound­ing six oth­ers, in­clud­ing po­lice who ran in to help.

David­son checked the locked doors at his syn­a­gogue. The con­gre­ga­tion re­lies on off-duty po­lice of­fi­cers and pri­vate se­cu­rity guards to keep the cam­pus safe.

Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon, a po­lice com­man­der vis­ited Tem­ple Oheb Shalom. David­son said the com­man­der told him that po­lice had no lo­cal threats, but were tak­ing pre­cau­tions. “He let us know they were tak­ing ad­di­tional steps to be in the area,” David­son said.

One woman in his con­gre­ga­tion had friends who wor­shiped at the Tree of Life Con­gre­ga­tion in Pitts­burgh, he said.

“Ev­ery­one is just re­ally heart­sick for them,” David­son said.

Rabbi Sarah Mar­ion at Tem­ple Oheb Shalom said her con­gre­ga­tion was shocked.

“There’s a lot of dev­as­ta­tion, a lot of sad­ness,” she said.

A so­cial worker is sched­uled to talk to par­ents in the con­gre­ga­tion Sun­day at 9:45 a.m.

“The only way to cope is to gather in sup­port and friend­ship and love,” Mar­ion said, “to hold each other in times in which there are re­ally no an­swers.”

De­tec­tive Chakia Fen­noy, a spokes­woman for the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment, said of­fi­cers will be pay­ing spe­cial at­ten­tion to syn­a­gogues and other reli­gious in­sti­tu­tions, but no in­ci­dents had been re­ported.

A spokesman for Bal­ti­more County po­lice said the depart­ment has in­creased its pa­trols around syn­a­gogues and stepped up checks of sim­i­lar lo­ca­tions.

The Lau­rel Po­lice Depart­ment said in a Face­book post that it was also watch­ing area “houses of wor­ship” more closely.

“In light of the re­cent shoot­ing in Pitts­burgh, please do not be alarmed if you see height­ened po­lice pres­ence in and around houses of wor­ship,” the post read.

Around Mary­land, other groups de­nounced the at­tack in Pitts­burgh.

The Anne Arun­del County Mus­lim Coun­cil called on the na­tion’s lead­ers to unify the coun­try.

“There is no place in our na­tion for sense­less vi­o­lence and ha­tred, We must re­mem­ber, there is more that brings us to­gether than di­vides us,” the coun­cil said in an emailed state­ment. “We ap­peal to our po­lit­i­cal, reli­gious and com­mu­nity lead­ers to stop the hate rhetoric.

“We send our deep­est con­do­lences to our Jewish broth­ers and sis­ters and pray for our na­tion’s heal­ing.”

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