Pa. syn­a­gogue shoot­ing prompts lo­cal con­cern

Rabbi of Lex­ing­ton Park con­gre­ga­tion notes on­go­ing safety ef­forts with law en­force­ment

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JOHN WHAR­TON jwhar­ton@somd­

Satur­day ser­vices at Beth Is­rael Syn­a­gogue in Lex­ing­ton Park ended be­fore word reached its rabbi and con­gre­ga­tion of the shoot­ing deaths of 11 wor­ship­pers at a syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh, but the im­pact prompted grief and more gath­er­ings.

“The as­sault on the Jewish com­mu­nity is a threat to ev­ery­thing that we cher­ish,” Rabbi Ken­neth L. Co­hen said Tues­day. “It is threat­en­ing to Jews, and not only Jews, ev­ery­where. It is hor­rific. It is un-Amer­i­can.”

Co­hen, now in his fifth year serv­ing the syn­a­gogue in St. Mary’s, lives in Bethesda.

“We only learned the news af­ter ser­vices” on Satur­day, the rabbi said. “I didn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with the mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion ex­cept af­ter­ward, by tele­phone and elec­tron­i­cally.”

A spe­cial in­ter­faith ser­vice was held Sun­day at Trin­ity Epis­co­pal Church at St. Mary’s City, Co­hen said, and Beth Is­rael will in­clude recog­ni­tion of the Tree of Life syn­a­gogue deaths dur­ing

its reg­u­lar ser­vice at 7:30 p.m. this Fri­day, Nov. 2, at Beth Is­rael Syn­a­gogue, lo­cated at 21780 Bunker Hill Drive in the Patuxent Park com­mu­nity off Great Mills Road.

“We will be say­ing memo­rial prayers,” the rabbi said.

Amid mass shoot­ings na­tion­wide last year, law of­fi­cers and faith lead­ers met last fall at the church in St. Mary’s City to ad­dress con­cerns and dis­cuss ways to pre­pare for po­ten­tial dan­ger, and what to do in worst-case sce­nar­ios. About 70 faith rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the area at­tended the gather­ing, held in the after­math of a mass shoot­ing in a Texas church where 26 peo­ple were killed.

Pre­cau­tions dis­cussed at the meet­ing in­cluded find­ing out which parish­ioners have mil­i­tary or law en­force­ment train­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing crit­i­cal stake­hold­ers, which could be help­ful in form­ing a se­cu­rity team and de­vel­op­ing a writ­ten emer­gency plan.

“The sher­iff’s of­fice has been very help­ful and has taken an ac­tive role in the safety of our premises,” Co­hen said this week. “It’s noth­ing new. It’s been [for] a cou­ple years, at least. We’re very grate­ful to them.”

The dis­cus­sion with faith lead­ers has con­tin­ued, sher­iff’s Cpl. Julie Yin­gling, a spokesper­son for the agency, said Tues­day, through email mes­sages “back and forth” and what­ever as­sis­tance houses of wor­ship need in im­ple­ment­ing safe­guards.

“They were de­vel­op­ing their own strate­gies” af­ter the group pre­sen­ta­tion, Yin­gling said, but “they can reach out to us when­ever they want. It’s been an open di­a­logue ever since then.”

Fol­low­ing Satur­day’s shoot­ing in Pitts­burgh, “There’s been an out­pour­ing of sup­port from the cit­i­zens of the com­mu­nity,” Co­hen said, “and we’re very grate­ful for that sol­i­dar­ity.” Co­hen

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