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Following years of security concerns here because of wars and terrorism in the Middle East, the American Jewish community was on edge this week in the wake of an act of domestic anti-Semitism — an early morning attack last week at the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Crown Heights.
The violence in the Brooklyn neighborhood – committed by an apparently mentally unbalanced 49-year-old man who stabbed a 22-year-old Israeli student in the temple before being fatally shot by New York police – highlighted the vulnerability of many large yeshivot and synagogues in charedi neighborhoods. Those institutions are often open 24/7 for students who end their learning or worship late at night or begin early in the morning.
The Crown Heights attack came almost a month after an assault by two Arab men from East Jerusalem on the Bnei Torah synagogue in the city’s Har Nof neighborhood killed four rabbis and a Druze policeman.
According to Jewish Week, the Brooklyn attack, which is being investigated as a hate crime — the assailant reportedly shouted “Kill the Jews” — has brought calls by security officials for an easing of these open-door policies, which can make schools and shuls inviting targets. No one suggested TSA-type searches at the entrance to Jewish buildings. Rather, security experts focused on the need for more oversight over who comes in.
“Our goal is not to turn Jewish institutions into armed camps. Our goal is to ensure that people are trained to respond to a crisis, to be able to identify suspicious behavior,” said Paul Goldenberg, national director of Secure Community Network, a national organization that helps coordinate security measures for the Jewish community.
Within hours of the attack, he said, his organization received requests for security briefings from several schools and synagogues.
Rabbi Chaim Landa, a Lubavitch spokesperson, said “ongoing” discussions are taking place with the Police Department. The group’s headquarters, at 770 Eastern Parkway, houses administrative offices, a large sanctuary and a yeshiva that is usually open around the clock.