The “horrible violence at the synagogue in Pittsburgh,” in the words of Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler is a week old but still very much present in the minds of many Highland Park residents.
“We have been left with a heightened sense of vulnerability and concern for our safety,” she said.
Highland Park Council is unable to offer the spiritual and emotional support, but is acting to provide support in the public safety arena.
- Councilwoman Elsie Foster-Dublin (head of the Public Safety Committee) and the mayor consulted with our Police Chief Stephen Rizco about the steps that can be taken to bolster synagogue security in Highland Park. As an immediate measure, the police have increased drive-bys at our synagogues at times when services are held.
- Municipal officials organized a meeting on Tuesday among representatives of the NJ Department of Homeland Security, clergy members of faith communities in the area, church & synagogue administrators, and current church & synagogue presidents to discuss a comprehensive public safety strategy for preventing the hate crime that devastated the Pittsburgh community.
- The Highland Park Human Relations Commission is looking at a social service response to anti-Semitism and the ongoing issue of prejudice and hate of different racial, religious and ethnic groups.
Mayor Brill Mittler issued the following statement:
“There is one other thing that each one of us can do. The federal government has recommended for the past decade or more; If you see something, say something. If you notice someone who appears out of place in your synagogue, an untended bookbag, or an unusual package received in the mail, tell your rabbi or a synagogue officer immediately (don’t wait until after services end).
If the person you inform cannot identify the suspicious person, bookbag, or package, have them contact the Highland Park Police Department immediately (call 911). Don’t delay and don’t worry that you are causing an undue alarm. You may be saving lives.”
And on a spiritual level, Rabbi Eliot Malomet of the Highland Park Conservative Temple Congregation Anshe Emeth said the following:
“While the aftermath of this horror unfolds before a national audience, this event shows us how important the synagogue is to American Jewish life, and how much we take it for granted.
Throughout America, rabbis like me are calling upon their congregants to “Show up for Shabbat.” Outside of the synagogue there is a cacophony of responses to this event. But within the context of the shul, the response to this heinous act of annihilationist anti-Semitism cannot be anything simpler: just show up. Come to shul. Nothing will demonstrate our resolve and conviction more than showing up to shul on Shabbat. It’s that simple.
The answer to anti-Semitism has always been to make Jewish life stronger. We do not capitulate to despair. We can demonstrate this very simply: come to shul.
Spread the #showupforshabbat campaign and plan to be in shul this coming Shabbat.”