Just a few years in the past, in response to the lethal 2018 assault on the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the synagogue the place my kids and husband are members requested me to advise its new safety committee. Simple sufficient. It’s what I do for corporations, public entities, colleges, and sports activities groups. My job is to evaluate danger and buttress defenses in response to these dangers. That’s it. I do chilly calculations, not emotion. On that event, nevertheless, dispassion was a legal responsibility.
My relationship to the synagogue, as an Arab American elevating Jewish kids, is simpler than the debates of our time would recommend. The synagogue is a progressive place, open to the stranger and the non-convert. Sufficient interfaith households belong that the congregation way back shed any formal notion of what it means to be a “Jewish household.” It modified its calendar, even, and canceled Hebrew faculty on Easter Sunday to accommodate its various members. When my three children had been getting ready for his or her bar and bat mitzvahs and the social occasions surrounding them, the division of labor was clear: Their father would deal with their souls, and I might deal with logistics.
The very existence of the safety committee was an indication of concern about anti-Semitism and hate crimes. That concern was and is rational. Jews have been focused with lethal violence lately in Pittsburgh; Poway, California; Jersey Metropolis, New Jersey; Monsey, New York; and, this weekend, Colleyville, Texas, the place a British nationwide took hostages on the Congregation Beth Israel throughout an 11-hour ordeal. At this time, one in 4 American Jews says that their cultural or spiritual establishments have been attacked, threatened, or defaced over the previous 5 years. The Jewish neighborhood is menaced by each right-wing extremists and Islamic jihadists.
The members of the committee had been in fact conscious of the risk, however that they had no background in the best way to counter it. I defined that, usually, the general aim is to attenuate dangers whereas maximizing defenses. However minimizing dangers will not be simple for one temple to do alone, so the neighborhood must deal with constructing defenses.
I offered a guidelines: exterior protections, similar to fencing or walling off areas uncovered to busy streets; contracting safety guards throughout the Excessive Holidays; video cameras; active-shooter coaching. Once more, no emotion. The committee members nodded alongside. “And you need to take into account some entry-access safety, so individuals should establish themselves with badges earlier than they’ll are available,” I continued. That, it seems, was an excessive amount of. The historic significance of asking Jews to hold badges had been misplaced on me; so was the concept that entry is each a vulnerability and important to the establishment.
At airports, stadiums, even colleges, security and safety procedures are put in place to guard the essence of the establishment itself: journey, recreation, training. We could not just like the fortress aesthetic, however we’ve come to simply accept it.
However what if the essence of a spot is that it’s defenseless? What if its potential to welcome others, to be hospitable to strangers, is its identification? What if vulnerability is its unspoken mission? That’s the problem I hadn’t thought-about. I tread rigorously right here talking of a faith that I do know solely by marriage. I’ve robust emotions about Israel, not lately identified for its peaceable stance towards its Arab residents. However within the U.S., for a Jewish congregation to grow to be a fortress would appear too militaristic, too aggressive. To make a tender goal more durable would extra possible change the goal than deter the attacker.
In safety, we view vulnerabilities as inherently unhealthy. We resolve the issue with layered defenses: extra locks, extra surveillance. Deprive strangers of entry to your temple, I urged the committee members, and have congregants carry ID. They might have none of it. Entry was a vulnerability embedded within the establishment, and no safety professional may change that—we do logistics, not souls.
The standoff in Colleyville ended with the attacker lifeless and the hostages unhurt. However throughout the nation, synagogues are little doubt convening their safety committees, questioning what extra they’ll do to defend their members with out shedding their important vulnerability. A synagogue will not be like an airport or a stadium. When it turns into a fortress, one thing immeasurable is misplaced.