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Synagogues Take Extra Precautions for Holy Days

By Marie Beaudette
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001

WASHINGTON - Police are urging Maryland Jewish congregations to take
extra security precautions for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services in
the wake of last week's terrorist attacks, and at least some synagogues
appear to be listening.

At many synagogues around the state, recorded messages advised worshipers to bring identification to services this week for Rosh Hashana and next week for Yom Kippur. And police in several jurisdictions said they were keeping a closer watch, particularly after reports of bomb threats against synagogues in the Baltimore area last week.

But officials at some synagogues said they have increased security over the years and that extra security at this time was not necessary. They added that they, like the rest of the country, are trying to be more alert.

"We're taking the same cautions that we've taken at all our schools and religious activities for several years," said Linda Small, senior staff coordinator for Beth Am synagogue in Baltimore. The congregation has had uniformed and plain-clothes security at all of its services and school activities, she said.

Unlike some area congregations, however, Beth Am is not requiring participants in holiday services to present identification.

Other congregations are just advising members to be more alert.

"Naturally everyone is more observant of their surroundings, as President Bush has asked us to be," Small said.

But police are still concerned for the safety of the Maryland Jewish community and advise extra precautions during the High Holy Days. Rosh Hashana, which began Monday evening, is the Jewish new year and Yom Kippur, which begins next week, is the day of atonement.

Baltimore City Police spokesman Kevin Enright said some congregations asked for additional protection after hearing of bomb threats in the city. "It certainly makes more sense to be safe rather than sorry," he said.

Everyone is on a heightened state of alert after the Sept. 11 attacks and the climate of the High Holy Days makes this situation important to watch closely, Enright said.

Montgomery County Police regularly keep a closer eye on synagogues during the Jewish holidays, said Officer Amy Homrock, a spokeswoman for the department. Officers are to "take extra time" on their beats to patrol parking lots and watch out for suspicious activity, she said.

Although most people are watching their surroundings more closely after the events of Sept. 11, some believe they are in no serious danger. "We don't feel like we would be targeted," said a member of Temple Shalom in Bowie, who asked not to be named. 

Copyright 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism


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