NJ houses of worship focus on security in wake of Texas synagogue attack
Houses of worship across New Jersey are still on edge after an attack on a Texas synagogue on Jan. 15. Many are now revisiting their own security systems and safety training going into this weekend’s services.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker says his recent security training helped save lives during the hostage situation inside his Texas synagogue.
“There was a chair in front of me. I told guys to go, picked it up and threw it at him,” Cytron-Walker said.
Devastated it had to be used, Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey CEO Jason Sahmes says he knows how important security measures and training can be.
“Not again. Ugh, here we go again. Jews being senselessly targeted again,” Shames says.
Shames says he applauds a bill signed this week that grants money to nonprofits, specifically houses of worship, to help them enhance security.
“These things – the money and the support – they all help. They all help. Look, it saved four lives this weekend in Colleyville,” Shames says.
The possibility of attacks on synagogues is often on the minds of many worshipers.
“We know what happened in Texas could have happened in any synagogue in the country, including ours, so we need to be prepared,” says Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of United Synagogue of Hoboken.
The United Synagogue of Hoboken works with the Jewish Federation to regularly update their own safety and security practices.
One thing they have done recently is lock the main doors to the synagogue – doors that they have been using for more than 100 years. Now everyone going inside must go through one secure door.
“We do conduct all kinds of emergency training with our staff and clearly we are taking this as an opportunity to upgrade the amount and level the training we do,” says Scheinberg.
The Nonprofit Security Grant that Gov. Phil Murphy signed provides up to $10,000 for nonprofit organizations to hire security. It also awards of up to $50,000 to acquire target-hardening equipment. The grants would be administered by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.