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Security at Lawrence Township synagogues ramped up in response to ‘potential attacks’

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Security measures at Adath Israel Congregation and Temple Micah have been ramped up and will likely remain so for a while, in the wake of an unspecified threat made against Jewish synagogues in New Jersey, officials said.

The man who allegedly made the unspecified threats was apprehended Nov. 4 by law enforcement authorities, according to reports by www.cnn.com. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had issued a warning Nov. 3 about potential attacks on the synagogues on its Twitter account.

“We identified the source of the threat, who no longer poses a danger to the community. As always, we would like to remind the public to remain vigilant and if they observe a suspicious activity, to report it to law enforcement immediately,” the FBI tweeted Nov. 4.

The person told authorities that “he does not like Jewish people and was very angry, but he indicated that he was not going to do anything harmful,” according to reports by www.cnn.com. An online posting with antisemitic comments in a forum frequented by extremists triggered the alert.

Both Adath Israel Congregation and Temple Micah contacted the Lawrence Township Police Department Nov. 3. Police increased patrols around all Jewish locations, according to the synagogues.

Adath Israel Congregation is located at 1958 Lawrenceville Road. Temple Micah holds its worship services and religious school at The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville at 2688 Main St. in the village of Lawrenceville.

Despite the man’s apprehension, Rabbi Benjamin Adler said Adath Israel Congregation has increased its security measures and will continue to do so for awhile to ensure the safety of its congregants.

“We are always concerned that Adath Israel could be harmed, which is why in the last few months we held security training sessions that were open to our congregation. We also received grants from the federal and state governments to upgrade and expand the security of our facility,” Adler said.

“Unfortunately, antisemitism is on the rise in the United States and we have seen an increase in anti-Jewish incidents in our area in the last few years. While the Jewish community will always be open and welcoming, we must make sure that we keep everyone safe and secure,” he said.

The Rev. Jeffrey Vamos, pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, said the church has been meeting with Temple Micah representatives to discuss ways to enhance security. A safety plan had already been created to respond to threats such as an active shooter, he said.

Vamos said he is concerned about the rise in antisemitism. The tenor of discussion among figures of national prominence has indicated that “it’s okay to put together anti-Semitic comments,” he said.

“What is going on in our culture (is that) the things that were beyond acceptable now seem to be becoming acceptable. The best way for violence to take root in our culture is for people of good conscience to remain silent,” Vamos said.

The Secure Community Network, which is the official homeland safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America, stated that the FBI’s Nov. 3 warning of a potential attack is yet another reminder of the rising level of antisemitic threats across the United States.

“We thank the FBI and all other law enforcement agencies that investigated this matter and all those in the Jewish community who helped take action to keep facilities safe,” said Michael McMaster, SCN’s national director and chief executive officer.

“We must continue to do all we can to protect our community, while allowing Jewish life to flourish and thrive,” McMaster said.

Jews make up 2% of the United States population, but account for 60% of religious-based hate crimes, SCN said.

Gov. Phil Murphy also thanked the FBI, the state Attorney General’s Office, the New Jersey State Police and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness for their “tireless efforts in mitigating the immediate threat to our Jewish synagogues.”

“While this specific threat may be mitigated, we know this remains a tense time for our Jewish communities who are facing a wave of antisemitic activity. We will not be indifferent. We will remain vigilant (and) we will stand up and stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish congregations,” Murphy said.

The Anti-Defamation League, whose mission is to stop the defamation of Jews, said 2,717 incidents of antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021 in the United States. This represents a 34% increase over the 2,026 incidents reported in 2020, and an all-time high since it began tracking incidents in 1979, according to www.adl.org.

The ADL’s annual audit of antisemitic incidents for 2021 stated that attacks against Jewish community centers and synagogues increased by 61% year-over-year from 2020 to 2021. Incidents at K-12 schools went up by 106% and incidents on college campuses increased by 21%.

Incidents were reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the ADL said. There were 416 incidents in New York State in 2021. New Jersey ranked second in the number of reported incidents at 370, and California placed third with 367 incidents.

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