It took longer than anticipated to learn the Torah portion yesterday for chanting later in the morning, so I did not make it to Agudas Achim in time for early morning excitement.
Apparently a holy roller made his way into the synagogue, got down on knees and advised those present of the merits of Jesus and Christianity. The details are not so important.
Four different people who normally not only do not attend but are not part of the shul clientele also showed up yesterday. Something must be afoot in Bexley and surrounding areas when four unsavory individuals descend on Agudas Achim on one day. Whatever that is, it needs rapid attention.
One Shabbat earlier it had been announced that new steps were being taken to assure the security of the premises. It was proclaimed that only the parking lot door would be left unlocked during Sabbath prayers, to assure everyone’s safety. Moreover, as that door was to be unlocked, a team of members would sit near the door to keep an eye on who might enter, and to be welcoming faces to those who do arrive. If someone who did not belong showed up, I am not sure what I would have done had I been on the team.
Yesterday the plan was firmly in place. The door was left open. An unsavory person entered.
All plans have their weaknesses. In this case there is a presumption that inappropriate persons will only enter if welcome, and only at the right time and place. Whether one door or more is open, without that presumption, the plan is no stronger than a sieve containing water. Even had there been no events in New Town, is it plausible that if someone wanted into a building that locked, windowed and glass doors would not deter.
Paranoia can be a good thing. Sometimes there are people out to get us, and being watchful of them is never wrong. Events in the Arab world, Europe and South America reflect increased anti-Semitic activity. In our own country there is a growth of anti-religious fervor and secularism that may place our Jewish community at greater risk.
Still, can the Jewish community permit itself to live in fear? Can it take steps for security purposes that are cosmetic at best, and do not stop those who may threaten?
When a synagogue is built with multiple doors to serve as a place of in-gathering for the entire Jewish community, ought it shutter its entrances because there are a few whackos around? Should any synagogue be transformed from God’s place, a site of safety, peacefulness and tranquility into a fortress.
If someone wants to cause harm to Jews, and I am sure those people live among us, why would they even think of coming to a Federation building or a community center or synagogue? There are so many other Jewish owned schools, businesses and homes that make far easier targets. Yet those places are not even included in communal discussions of how to keep the Jewish community safe from attackers.
Yes there are those who will do Jews harm and are out to destroy us. There are others who just want to goad. And there are those who will do wrong because they are plagued with their own motivations and demons. We must be mindful and aware that they exist. We must not give in to that awareness and become paranoid. Our synagogues must be loving. open places; not fortresses.
“The Lord is my fortress.”