Security increased for area's Jewish congregations

High Holy Days follow attacks in N.Y., capital

Terrorism Strikes America

Taking Precautions

September 14, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien and Del Quentin Wilber | Dennis O'Brien and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

As local Jewish congregations prepare for the High Holy Days, security has been beefed up more than usual in response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Baltimore city and county police have increased patrols in Jewish neighborhoods and posted officers at houses of worship. Police say officers will remain at temples and synagogues during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins Monday night and continues Tuesday.

"We've been doing it since the first hour of the attacks," said Bill Toohey, a Baltimore County police spokesman.

Jewish leaders say the added security is a necessity, especially for the religious holidays that draw the largest crowds of the year.

"Security is intense during the High Holy Days. It is even more intensified now," said Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. "Nobody can tell for sure that this is over."

Baltimore's deputy police commissioner, Bert F. Shirey, said he has added extra patrols at temples and synagogues, and given district commanders the option to post officers nearby.

"We're preparing for everything," Shirey said. "We're taking measures to provide for their safety. ... We're going to provide a heightened degree of security."

At Har Sinai Congregation in Northwest Baltimore, Rabbi Floyd Herman said police have been stationed outside the temple since Tuesday evening, after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon. "The presence is much greater than it has been in the past."

Security guards have been posted inside the temple and school, Herman said. "We want to make sure we're covered."

At Beth El Congregation in Pikesville, Rabbi Mark G. Loeb said the congregation usually has undercover security guards at most services. Baltimore County police direct traffic at services.

"We are not anticipating that anything will happen," Loeb said. "This is not about the Jewish people. It's about America. We will do as we've always done here. We'll be as cautious as we need to be."

Bernie Suffel, executive director of Beth Tfiloh in Pikesville, said county police came to the congregation this week to offer advice on security measures.

"We've locked down doors that may have been opened in the past," Suffel said. "People who come in are screened more closely. Deliveries are all screened now much more than ever before.

"What happens is, you inconvenience people, but that's OK."

Suffel declined to discuss specific security measures, but said the congregation will be ready for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which begins at sundown Sept. 26.

Francine Klensin, director of education at Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold, said teachers and staff have been more watchful this week. Nursery school teachers have walkie-talkies to keep them in touch with the office during recess.

"We're now locking our doors all the time," she said. "There's generally a more heightened awareness."

Abramson said the attacks may help Americans understand the pressures on Israeli life.

"The American people are finally going to begin to understand through the most tragic of ways what Israel has been going through on a daily basis," he said.

Sun staff writer John Rivera contributed to this article.

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