The Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh was attacked last Saturday during Shabbat services. The shocking and heartbreaking deaths of 11 victims may prompt us to wonder how safe our own community is. Our synagogues are meant to be safe places to gather as a Jewish community. Rest assured, we are taking action to make sure Temple Judah remains a place of safety to worship.
To ensure our community is protected, the Temple Judah Board of Directors convened a special board meeting on Tuesday night and invited all congregants to provide input and feedback. In summary, there are actions we have already taken to increase security as well as actions we plan to take in the coming weeks. We also planned several ways to memorialize the victims.
The actions we have already taken to improve security at Temple Judah include hiring a security guard at Friday night services from now through November 30th and for the Hanukkah dinner on December 9th. We will re-evaluate if we need to continue hiring security for Friday night services as the end of the month nears. In addition, the Cedar Rapids Police Department is sending extra patrols to our area, particularly at times when congregants are in the building. We have confirmed that the building alarm system is working properly, including a new keypad at the upper entrance and the camera intercom installed last spring. Exterior light bulbs that had burned out are now replaced and bushes in front of the office window have been trimmed back, allowing for greater visibility of who is on the property.
The actions we are planning to take in the coming weeks include conducting a building vulnerability assessment through the Cedar Rapids Police Department. This assessment will identify any other actions we should be taking to improve security. We are also planning to request active shooter training through the CRPD, so that board members, teachers, and anyone else interested can learn what to do in such a crisis. In conjunction with these items, we will be updating our security plan and reaching out to our neighbors on Lindsay Lane and Bever Ave. We will continue to communicate security updates to the congregation, so that you all know that we’re doing our part to keep everyone safe at Temple Judah.
To honor the victims of the attack, we are including a memorial at Friday night’s service. We have invited the entire Cedar Rapids area community to join us. At this service, we will be lighting yahrzeit candles and reading prayers and poems in memory of the victims. We are also honoring the victims by making a donation to the Tree of Life Congregation, as well as the Anti-Defamation League and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), from Temple Judah. The Tree of Life Congregation has indicated that donations will assist the families of the victims and go toward rebuilding the synagogue. In addition, we will be installing a plaque on the memorial board in memory of the victims in the lower sanctuary.
Thank you to everyone who attended Tuesday night’s meeting. We had a significant turnout of congregants with great ideas and comments, and we appreciate your feedback. We as a board believe that Temple Judah is a safe place to worship and learn, and we are working to continue to improve its safety and security to prevent an attack like the one on Tree of Life Congregation. We stand in solidarity with Tree of Life Congregation in mourning the victims and we pray for an end to hate and violence. We hope to you all can join us on Friday night at 6:30 pm.