DHS task force takes off after violent attacks on temples and synagogues – The Washington Post | Episode Movies

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that year, at Temple Emanu-El, a pioneering reform synagogue just steps from Central Park in Manhattan, a 6″ x 11″ flyer was posted at each seat next to the prayer books with instructions to what to do in case of attack during one of the Solemnity services.

“If fleeing the threat is not an option,” the flyers said, “squat between the pews or hide behind a pillar. Make yourself a target as small as possible. Keep calm and still.”

A rise in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years has prompted Jewish institutions across the country to focus on improving their security measures and protocols. Overall, FBI hate crime statistics show that incidents at churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques increased by 34.8 percent between 2014 and 2018.

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In July, days before the 10th anniversary of the deadly attack on a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin that killed seven and injured three, the Biden administration set up the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council to support the efforts of the Government to direct violent attacks on faith institutions. The council, which includes 25 faith leaders and law enforcement experts, met for the first time last month.

The group’s members come from a variety of faith communities, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Jewish Orthodox Union, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the All Dulles (Va.) Area Muslim Society . Local police departments, the InfraGard National Members Alliance and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters are also represented. The council will make recommendations to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“You, as leaders in this country, can play such a central role in our understanding of the challenges we face in achieving this close partnership and meeting those challenges,” Mayorkas told council members at the Oct. 6 meeting, according to a transcript posted online . In addition to meeting the safety concerns of places of worship, Mayorkas said, the group will be charged with building trust in DHS and ensuring the assistance the department provides is just and fair.

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“I can tell you that people in our community have certainly had a hard time accessing resources due to language barriers and a lack of knowledge of the systems,” said Kiran Kaur Gill, DHS Council Chair and executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Kaur Gill said it can be difficult for faith communities to find the balance between securing their spaces and offering hospitality. “For the Sikh community, as for so many other communities, there is this inherent tension between securing our places of worship and following the basic tenets of our faith, which include openness and allowing anyone of any background to come in. ” She said.

Kaur Gill said she hopes the advisory board can also “investigate the underlying causes of this [threats are] happen and find innovative ways that we can combat these problems.”

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Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director and council member of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, attributes the rise in violence against places of worship and other public spaces in particular to the spread of white supremacist “conspiracy lies” such as the “great replacement.” theory”, combined with easily accessible firearms.

“My focus on this advisory committee is to get to the root of the problem,” Pesner said. “I don’t think we can finance our way out of white supremacy and gun violence, and anti-Semitism cannot be eradicated with more surveillance cameras.”

Since 2016, DHS has provided funds for security measures to nonprofit organizations, including faith-based organizations, through its Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Next year, the program’s proposed funding is $360 million, an increase of 44 percent.

Pesner said the advisory board needs to be aware of the role of security and law enforcement in different communities. “We have to remember that for some communities of color, law enforcement is a troubled entity … or in some cases may actually have been a threat,” he said, asking, “How can we really lean on everyone’s safety and everyone’s solidarity.” ?

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Deputy Chief Tracie Baker, a 24-year veteran of the Arlington, Texas Police Department, described the Arlington Clergy and Police Partnership’s community building with local religious organizations, which brings together local faith leaders and law enforcement agencies. Such a deliberate partnership has produced results, she said.

“I think because we’re more proactive in our approach when [houses of worship] see something contact us. … I think because of our relationship and our early education and intelligence gathering, we’ve seen quite a bit of success here in our city,” she said.

Baker said it is also vitally important that all faith communities feel they have equal access to help offered by the DHS.

“It’s just about making sure everyone sees and gets the same information and the same resources that we make available to other sites,” she said. “How can the Council ensure that we go ahead and remember everyone and leave no one behind?”

This article was created as part of the RNS/Interfaith America Religion Journalism Fellowship.

— Religious Intelligence Service

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