Sunday, February 10, 2019

After Pittsburgh, some synagogues are more comfortable with guns in the pews

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works  with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement

Do not be hasty in spirit to be angry. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Think about the wisdom of Solomon's words. Not hastily jumping to conclusions, but exercising a bit of patience, a gently worded question  reveales the truth a prevents an unjustified reprimand.

Today I shall ...
... try to avoid erupting in anger when I feel offended and at least delay an angry response until I have more thoroughly evaluated the situation.

Love Yehuda Lave

After Pittsburgh, some synagogues are more comfortable with guns in the pews

Even some backers of gun control think there is a place in the pews for licensed gun carriers.

(JTA) — On an average Saturday morning at the Orthodox Ohel Tefillah synagogue on Chicago's North Side, about 10 percent of the men carry a handgun.

That number may seem high in a liberal city with some of the strictest gun laws in the country. But in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre last year, Rabbi Moshe Revah expects it will grow. He wouldn't be surprised if soon, 10 of the 40 or so men who pray there each week — 25 percent — will be packing heat.

"Definitely, Pittsburgh sparked the interest," the rabbi said regarding gun ownership. "Originally it was much more of a taboo topic in the community. … Definitely people are much more understanding of the idea. There's more and more problems and things happening."

Following the Pittsburgh shooting, in which 11 worshippers were killed at Shabbat services by a lone gunman, a synagogue in another liberal bastion had the same conversation — and came to the opposite conclusion.

The Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist congregation in New York City, decided that having more guns in synagogue would only create more danger. The synagogue even opted against an increased police presence so as not to push away Jews of color, who may feel threatened by police.

"We don't believe guns will help the situation," said SAJ Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann. "They would exacerbate the situation. In terms of congregants holding guns, it would create a culture of fear and promote a culture of guns when we believe access to guns should be more limited."

The four major American Jewish denominations — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist — have called for increased gun control in some form. But in synagogues across the country, policies are far less uniform. Some ban guns from their buildings. Others are OK with their members carrying firearms in the sanctuary, as long as they are concealed.

Supporters and opponents of guns in synagogue who spoke to JTA repeated familiar arguments on both sides of the debate. Rabbis who don't want firearms in their congregations said that more guns could mean more injury or death — inadvertent or not — as well as the growth of what they call an already problematic gun culture.

Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple in Atlanta speaks at an interfaith prayer vigil following the Pittsburgh shooting last year. (Ellis Vener)

But supporters of armed congregants say that with responsible training, they are a necessary defense in an age of frequent mass shootings. Call it the good Jewish guy with a gun.

"We don't want to be looked at as an easy target," said Rabbi Stuart Federow of Shaar Hashalom, a Conservative synagogue in Houston that allows the concealed carry of handguns, but not open carry. "People understand when seconds count, the police are minutes away. They understand that they have to take personal responsibility for those they love. After Pittsburgh, members of my congregation are very alert when someone walks into the building."

In Texas, where more than a third of residents own guns, the fault line isn't between whether to allow or ban guns, but whether to allow open carry as well as concealed guns. Congregation Shearith Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Dallas, also bans open carry but not concealed carry. Rabbi Ari Sunshine said that he assumes some congregants bring guns to synagogue, and that in the Lone Star State, a blanket prohibition on guns would not come up.

"We're a synagogue, we want to preserve a sacred space, and the idea of having guns in full view, that's just not part of the idea of the sanctity of a sacred space," he said.

Elsewhere in the South, even where gun ownership rates are high, some synagogues have stricter policies. Temple Emanu-El of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, requires individual members to apply for permission to carry in synagogue. The Temple, a Reform congregation in Atlanta, instituted a ban on guns in synagogue six years ago. Its rabbi, Peter Berg, is an outspoken advocate for gun safety measures, frequently speaking with state officials along with delegations of his congregants or groups of interfaith leaders.

"Thousands and thousands of people have died every single year, and this is something where there are simple changes we can make to create a safer environment that does not infringe on the Second Amendment," he said. "I feel passionately that this is a religious issue because people are dying and because we have turned the worship of guns into idolatry."

Berg's interest in the issue was partially sparked by his time as a rabbi in Texas more than a decade ago. One Saturday, an elderly congregant who was a police officer accidentally dropped the handgun he was carrying and shot his own daughter in the foot.

That same story is partly why Rabbi Sharon Brous of Ikar, a Los Angeles congregation, said she would not allow a congregant with a gun in the building. Brous added that Ikar has professional, armed security, and that the congregation re-evaluated its security protocols after the Pittsburgh shooting.

"We believe and know that more guns make us less safe," said Brous, who has also been active in a rabbis' movement against gun violence. "I'm not willing to risk the safety of the people in the room so someone who carries a concealed weapon can do so."

Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York City does not feel comfortable with guns in her synagogue. (Courtesy of Herrmann)

Michael Masters, the executive director of the Secure Communities Network, an umbrella organization that provides guidance to Jewish institutions on security procedures, cautioned against relying on laypeople to provide security in life-or-death situations. His organization encourages institutions to hire armed guards, if possible, and to stay in close touch with local law enforcement.

He noted that in the Pittsburgh shooting, four police officers who were highly trained were injured and unable to immediately stop the shooter.

"We have to ask ourselves, when four highly trained, capable members of law enforcement are cut down by an offender, what is the likelihood of how well prepared others are to address a similar situation?" he said.

But some synagogue-goers disagree and say they can serve as a second line of defense in case armed security is unable to stop a Pittsburgh-style shooter. Although Jewish law prohibits igniting a fire on Shabbat, Revah, the Chicago rabbi, explained that carrying a gun is permitted in certain circumstances in order to deter threats.

For some, carrying a gun comes with political considerations as well as safety concerns.

Eli Casper, who attends an Orthodox synagogue in South Florida, bought his gun the day before Election Day in 2016 because he was "concerned that Hillary Clinton was going to win and seriously constrict my right to carry a firearm." His rabbi is supportive of his bringing the gun to synagogue, said Casper, explaining that he makes sure his gun is completely concealed in the sanctuary so as not to scare anyone.

"I just thought more and more to myself, as an Orthodox Jew who believes in God, I have a basic responsibility to my effort in life, and that includes self-defense, and that includes my family, myself and my fellow congregants," he said.

Everyone who spoke to JTA and advocated concealed carry in synagogue added that armed congregants need to be well trained, beyond the minimum legal requirements for handgun ownership. Fred Kogen, a doctor and mohel in Long Beach, California, who runs a Jewish shooting club, Bullets and Bagels, said that training should go hand-in-hand with support for those who bring guns.

"It's not good enough to have someone who has a concealed permit be allowed to carry in the congregation," he said. "I feel that the congregation needs to be supportive of that concept, and that that person be even more vetted than the vetting that went into getting them a concealed permit."

But the lack of support is why even Kogen doesn't bring his gun to his Reform synagogue. He's never raised the issue with the clergy, but given the national Reform movement's position on gun control, he believes his gun would be unwelcome.

It was a struggle, Kogen said, just to get the congregation to upgrade the locks on its classrooms after Pittsburgh.

"At a certain point, you bang your head against the wall and your head hurts," he said. "The wall is not going to move."


The above article was from an Orthodox paper, now here is an article from a reformed-conservative web site--- Cops Don't Make All Jews Feel Safer

Our synagogues need a police presence that makes all of us feel safe—including those who are terrified of police

By Carly Pildis

When you become a parent, you become intimately acquainted with fear. Fear walks hand and hand with you and your child to the playground, to get a flu shot, across the street and to the car while you fasten the car seat. Fear is a constant companion. My family struggles with all of the typical fears—how high should we let our daughter climb on the jungle gym? But beyond those fears, for us, lie the tensions and concerns inherent in our identity as a mixed-race Jewish family. For example: How do we keep our daughter safe in a country where hate crimes are rising? How do we ensure that those who are sworn to protect her will not be the ones to cause her harm? And then there's this especially painful fear: How do I keep her safe in synagogue, the place where I once felt the safest and the most loved?

As the mom of a young black girl I have plenty of cause for fear. A Georgetown study released in 2017 found that black girls as young as 5 are perceived as being more adult and less innocent than white girls the same age, and therefore less in need of protection and support as opposed to punishment. Another study found that police were more likely to get violent with black children than white adults. A report from the African American Policy Forum found that black girls were likely to be punished more harshly by both the education system and the juvenile justice system. High profile cases of police becoming violent with young black girls at school and in public coupled with the #SayHerName movement are enough to make me wonder if my kid is safer without police at synagogue. I struggle to have the conversation about keeping all of our kids safe, while also addressing the specific vulnerability of young black girls like my daughter.

As the wife of black man, I fear that in an emergency my husband could be mistaken for the perpetrator of violence rather than a victim. Since the Tree of Life shooting, two innocent black men, Jemel Roberson and Emantic Bradford Jr., have been killed by police who mistook them for a shooter. I respect police officers—especially those who work to keep Jewish communal spaces safe. I know they risk their lives every day. But I am also terrified of them. I have watched them profile and harass the love of my life. I have had police officers demand my husband produce a deed to prove he lived in our own home and pull us over to ensure my husband was not a danger to me. Police have taught me to fear them, and I fear for my family when they are near me. But our synagogues and other communal spaces also need them, and Jews have reason to be grateful for them.


My fears, as a parent, a wife, and as a Jew, have grown since the Tree of Life shooting. I decided to begin reaching out to experts who might help synagogues grapple with these two seemingly competing needs that both have white supremacy at the root. I had questions. What were the options for communities that faced both fear of biased police and fear of terrorism? How could we keep our communities safe and what were our options for security, both with and without law enforcement? What productive conversations could be had with police officers, to ensure that, if they were in synagogue spaces, they wouldn't assume people of color didn't belong? Can these fears lead us to empowering discussions, or will they rip us apart?

I began with David Friedman, vice president of law enforcement and security at the ADL. "It's important and legitimate to be having conversations about bias with police," Friedman told me. "We want that outside of Jewish institutions. We want police officers to be aware of their biases across the board." He suggested that communities "create a forum in which police can meet members of the synagogue. This can be a mutual education experience. We have to be direct and explicit about our needs, but we must create opportunities for quality and quantity of contact so they can understand what a synagogue is like and who populates it." He was sympathetic to my fear that a police officer might mistake my husband or child as a threat. "Law enforcement may have a narrow idea of what a Jew looks like. The more contact and understanding they have the better. You can be explicit about that: 'You should be aware that not everyone in this synagogue looks the way you may think Jews look. We have people of color, women and transgender people.' That's the kind of information, like the layout of the synagogue, that they need, just as much as the floor plan."

And Friedman stressed that if daily, constant presence of armed police officers made some congregants uncomfortable, that wouldn't necessarily hinder the security of the entire community. "Having police, having armed security is only one component to having a strong security system," he said. "It is not a full solution, even when it is available. Every synagogue needs a plan that they practice and train people to execute that includes rabbis and lay leaders. The security system isn't [just] law enforcement—it's technology, hardware, and the practices, policies, and procedures developed with the institution that are implemented on a regular basis. That's where the security lives."

I turned next to Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. He stressed the importance of understanding and assessing white nationalist threats. "Hate crimes are up in general, hate crimes against Jews are up," Levin said. "When you have multiple mass casualty events with neo-Nazis, every Jewish institution and every house of worship should undertake a threat assessment." For example, "The police department should have a blueprint of your house of worship and every house of worship in town." But he added that a synagogue "can have a threat assessment without it being done by police."

Levin was concerned about the state of extremism. "We have seen the rise of white nationalism. We have seen the mainstreaming of white nationalism. We have a coalesced racial nationalism that is taking place in the United States amidst significant political polarization, dissemination of conspiracy theories and political instability. These are all historic markers of increased anti-Semitism." That said, he was quick to point out that most Americans have a favorable opinion of Jews, and a majority are concerned about rising anti-Semitism. "Let's not scare people," he cautioned.

Still, Friedman stressed the need for relationships with local police. "There needs to be a familiarity between the community and a relationship with specific members of law enforcement they can reach out to in an emergency," he said. "Most of the problems faced will not be active shooters, so ongoing relationships with law enforcement are critical. If there are a series of messages or bomb threats, law enforcement is essential to evaluating the severity of the threat. This is when people need to turn to professionals—you can't make these determinations as an amateur."

Talking to Friedman and Levin left me feeling empowered. There was room, it seemed, for synagogue communities to create security mechanisms that were inclusive, empowering, and created a comfortable and safe daily environment. The question then became, how can synagogues have those conversations in ways that strengthened community instead of letting fear tear communities apart? For answers, I turned to my friend Tema Smith, director of community engagement at Holy Blossom Synagogue in Toronto. I wanted her insight, both professionally and as a Jew of color, on how synagogues could have inclusive conversations on security.

"In an ideal world, any decisions about security would be made using an inclusion lens that considers not only who is in your building today, but who might be in it in the future," Smith said. "This means not only considering congregants, themselves representing a racially diverse Jewish community, but also staff, suppliers, and others who come in and out of synagogue spaces regularly." She noted that the Jewish community is "dealing with anxieties that feel in conflict with each other, and we need to be able to create the space to hold them and support each other. This moment can provide a great bridge to have difficult discussions about what it means to be part of the communities who are the most targeted in hate crimes across North America."


As we mourn the loss of life in Pittsburgh, we must search for ways to keep the whole community safe. I am a mother and a wife who is terrified of white supremacy and how it could kill my family. I am also a political organizer who has brought communities together for my entire career. I know the community is frightened—I know because I am part of this community. I would never ask anyone to be quiet about their fears, especially not now. I think we must share all of our fears in order to build a safe and secure community. After consulting with experts, I believe we can respond to our fears of violence in an inclusive and holistic way.

First, we must make security decisions community decisions. They must be discussed in open forums, with broad community buy-in. Second, we need to recognize that we are a diverse community with substantive differences, and security can mean different things in different places, as long as we stay both vigilant and inclusive. We must respect the needs of individual communities. Whatever a synagogue decides, I strongly encourage integrating anti-bias and anti-oppression training into your security apparatus and your ongoing community life. It may be hard at first, but it will make your community stronger, closer, and more just. It may also save someone's life.

I need our Jewish community to understand that families like mine are doubly vulnerable and must be heard in conversations about how to keep Jews safe. We are not competing against the desire to keep children safe. We are terrified—as terrified as you. We just have a different layering of fear. We can find ways within our individual synagogues and institutions to confront our fears proactively and create ways to keep everyone safe. We need to breathe, step back, and listen to each other. While we are all afraid, we cannot let fear dictate our security policies in ways that make our community less safe. Make no mistake: Black Jews are a part of our community and we must keep them safe as well. We cannot let our terror break our communities. I pray that this can be a moment where in seeking to make our communities safer we also make them stronger.


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Carly Pildis is a political organizer and advocacy professional based in Washington, D.C. Her Twitter feed is @carlypildis.

42 New Bus Lines To Go Through Central Jerusalem

For years, Jerusalem has suffered intracity bus neglect and overcrowding, especially from its outlining neighborhoods, reports Mynet Jerusalem. That's all about to change with the astounding 42 new bus lines slated to launch soon. 
In addition, nightlife will also benefit from bus changes, with center-city-bound buses running until 2:30 a.m., and a few lines dedicated to entertainment hubs throughout the city.
(Full story, including list of bus lines in Hebrew - MyNet Jerusalem)

Route 4370 Opens Today, Connecting The Binyamin Region To Pisgat Zeev And French Hill

Today, route 4370 was opened to traffic, the first section of the Eastern Ring Road. The road s part of a transportation project in northern Jerusalem, which will significantly ease the traffic congestion in the northern part of the city. 4370 stands at about 30 million NIS and in the first stage, the road will open from 05:00 to 12:00 every day.
The transportation project is the product of cooperation between the Jerusalem Municipality, Mateh Binyamin and the Ministry of Transportation, implemented by Moria, which rehabilitated the road starting in 2016. The works included the rehabilitation of the road building, waste removal, the regulation of safety and security elements, Including construction of the inspection passage. The road has two separate routes, one for those coming from outside the city and the other from the north to the east and south of the city:
One route - the western part of the road will connect traffic north of the city to the east and south of the city, without connecting to the city of Jerusalem and without crossing checkpoints, which will facilitate Palestinian movement in the area.
Another route connects the communities located north of Jerusalem to the city of Jerusalem itself via the security inspection crossing to the Naomi Shemer tunnel or the French Hill junction.
The two roads are about 5 kilometers long.
The Minister of Transport and Intelligence, Yisrael Katz, said that his ministry had invested more than NIS 30 million ($ 43 million) on Highway 437, which is part of the eastern ring of Jerusalem. "The paving of the road constitutes an important step in connecting the residents of the Binyamin region to Jerusalem and in strengthening the metropolitan area of Greater Jerusalem, following the opening of the Adam and other initiatives promoted by the Ministry of Transportation in recent years."
"This is one of many other steps to strengthen the services of the Ministry of Public Security on its bodies to the residents of Judea and Samaria and to strengthen sovereignty in the area," said Interior Minister Gilad Erdan. "We will continue to work to expand Israeli sovereignty throughout the entire area, while maintaining strict and consistent security needs." Over the past year alone, over 700 operations have been carried out, including searches, arrests, ambushes, closures, Arrests of praise, immediate stones, Mali "This is our reality here and in the country as a whole, a reality in which policemen stand at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, present, prevent, defend."

Minister Erdan referred to the AIRBNB boycott of residents of Judea and Samaria and called on the company to reverse its antisemitic decision to remove records of Jewish properties in Judea and Samaria. "It's not enough that they came here, held a few meetings and declared that they are against the BDS. They have to prove it in deeds. Not the company's decision will not move to the agenda. * As long as the company does not retract its intention to discriminate against the citizens of Israel, and to apply double standards vis-a-vis Israel, we will continue to advance steps, both on the regulatory and legal levels here in Israel and vis-à-vis our friend in the US and the world. We will not tolerate any form of boycott against Israeli citizens "
Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon: "This is true news for the residents of the Pisgat Ze'ev and French Hill neighborhoods. Opening the road at rush hour will create a significant load distribution and relief in the immediate range of traffic congestion in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood.
Beyond the traffic burdens we are solving today, we also strengthen Benjamin and inaugurate the natural and desirable connection between the Binyamin region and Jerusalem. I believe that the opening hours of the road will be extended and will be fully opened. "
Binyamin Gantz, head of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council: Project after project We solve the problem of traffic jams at the northern entrances to Jerusalem. In a very successful cooperation between Mateh Binyamin, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Transportation, there has been a transformation of access roads to the capital of the State of Israel, no longer narrow and congested narrow roads, from now on advanced, safe and impressive transportation routes, as befits a capital city. The road that opened today is no less than an oxygen pipe for the residents of Binyamin and the entire region. The development of the transportation system from Binyamin to Jerusalem is also a strategic process for the city of Jerusalem.

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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