It seems hard to believe it’s been a year since 11 innocent people lost their lives in the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life building in Pittsburgh. It’s even harder to believe we’re still facing threats of violence against Jews.
Following the tragedy in Pittsburgh, I wrote in Liptalk, “I hope that I am wrong, but I fear that one day something like this could happen in the Mahoning and Shenago Valleys. It is not a question of if but when.”
Less than a year later, we were threatened when a New Middletown man posted a video on Instagram of a man shooting what appeared to be a firearm with the capability of discharging multiple rounds in a short time span and tagged the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown.
I am grateful it didn’t become a tragedy, but with anti-Semitism on the rise, we need to be vigilant.
The U.S. Jewish community experienced near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League, including a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults. ADL’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents recorded a total of 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the country in 2018, the third-highest year on record since ADL started tracking such data in the 1970s. ADL’s audit identified 59 people who were victims of anti-Semitic assaults in 2018, up from 21 in 2017.
So security continues to be a priority for us. The Federation board and I take very seriously the need to ensure the safety of all members of the local Jewish community, participants in any of our programs, and visitors to our agencies.
We need to be deliberate and intentional as far as our security needs today and in the future. We need to continue to seek partners in our community who share our need to live in a civil society where differences are embraced and respected as opposed to dividing us.
Rob Elston, our security coordinator, is leading the security efforts. We’ve held trainings for staff and community members, as well as at the local synagogues. We’re also applying for grants that will hopefully help fund our efforts to be secure, both on our campus and at area synagogues.
This violence has to stop. We all have a responsibility to educate our neighbors, our family, and our elected officials that this is not acceptable. We need to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again, and to prosecute those people who are responsible for these acts. Otherwise, it’s going to continue.
Anyone with questions or suggestions about security, please feel free to contact me.
May the memory of the 11 people who lost their lives in Pittsburgh be for a blessing.