CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – After the hostage scenario at a Texas synagogue this past weekend, temples around the country have been preparing for the worst. This is an ongoing trend since 2018 when a shooting in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue left 11 people dead.
Even local Jewish communities in West Virginia have been increasing security at their own places of worship.
Victor Urecki is a rabbi with the B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston, which is one of the largest Jewish congregations in the state. He says in the past four years, they’ve heavily changed their security measures in response to these attacks across the nation.
“We routinely never locked our synagogue; our place was a place of welcome,” Urecki said. “Now since 2018, we’ve fortified our congregation. We have security cameras, people have to be buzzed in.”
After each major attack at Jewish places of worship, they have looked over security measures to keep attending families safe.
Urecki says this is out of an abundance of caution, especially due to the high number of Jewish-related hate crimes committed in the United States.
According to the American Jewish Committee, in 2020 more than half of the religiously motivated hate crimes were targeted towards Jews. Meanwhile, American Jews make up just 2% of the U.S. population.
Urecki says these security measures are not what the congregation wants to see, but they are there to keep families safe.
“The specter of antisemitism has always been there, but we felt it doesn’t happen in America. When it does happen we become frightened. But what has always strengthened us is not just our faith, but the outpouring of love and support from the community.”
Meanwhile, the FBI has warned faith-based communities around the nation they will likely be the target “by both domestic violent extremists and those inspired by foreign terrorists” in the future.