CT synagogues increase security following Texas hostage crisis
After a 10-hour standoff in a Texas synagogue ended last night with four hostages freed and the suspect killed by the FBI, Jewish leaders said that while no copycat threats exist in Connecticut, they are strengthening security measures for congregations across the state.
Judy Alperin, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, said she was one of thousands of people watching via livestream as the Colleyvillebased Congregation Beth Israel’s Saturday services were interrupted by the suspected hostage taker.
Alperin said in the past 24 hours, her organization and several other federations representing the Jewish community across the state have been in constant communication. There are no credible threats to houses of worship in the state, Alperin said, adding that she and other leaders sent out messages to reassure the community that there was no cause of worry.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the livestream, which didn't show what was happening inside the synagogue. The hostage-taker, who was killed after an FBI SWAT team entered the synagogue around 9 p.m. on Saturday, is reportedly a British man who was demanding the release of an imprisoned Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of trying to kill American military personnel in Afghanistan.
“It was frightening and horrific,” Alperin said of the hostage situation. “We have made security one of our main community priorities and focus over the last several years out of out of necessity. We’ve seen a growing trend of attacks and threats against the Jewish community across North America and also here in our state of Connecticut. So yesterday was a manifestation of our worst nightmare scenario.”
The New Haven federation just recently hired Regional Security Advisors as part of a longstanding effort to boost security measures for Jewish faith organizations across the country, Alperin said. The Hartford federation also has a similar adviser. Security advisers are former law enforcement officers who advise the Jewish federations in Connecticut on safety protocols, Alperin said.
Mike Shanbrom, the adviser for the greater New
Haven area, immediately reached out to law enforcement partners in the region after the incident, asking them to increase patrols around congregations, Alperin said.
“We have good, strong relationships with our law enforcement partners so that they're familiar with the buildings and what's going on,” Alperin said.
Michael Bloom, the executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, said the association has for years now lobbied the state and federal government extensively to boost funding for security infrastructure.
With the creation of the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program in 2021, around $3.8 million has already been disbursed to aid 97 nonprofits at heightened risk of a terrorist attack,
hate crime, or violent act. Eligible nonprofits are able to receive a maximum of $50,000 per site to cover costs related to security infrastructure.
Bloom said while the grant program is promising, federation leaders are still pushing elected officials for additional dollars.
Last night’s attack adds
more urgency to the necessity of that money, Bloom said.
“The need is real in Connecticut,” Bloom said. “Unfortunately, this latest incident is not new. It's just further evidence that we need to be vigilant, further evidence that the rise of anti-Semitism is real and that more resources are needed.”