GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Jewish congregations in West Michigan are revaluating their security after hostages were held by an extremist last Saturday at a synagogue in Texas.
The Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids is increasing security measures in the wake of what happened, according to Executive Director Nicole Katzman.
“We’ve been working with the Grand Rapids Police Department to better secure our synagogues and our offices, and we’ve hired additional security guards that will be present at programs and community functions. So we are doing as much as we can to combat the situation,” Katzman said.
The hostages were not harmed, but Katzman says the roughly 2,000 members of the Jewish faith in West Michigan are taking notice.
“When you go into a synagogue, we’re looking where the emergency exits are, how are we gonna get out? But I also feel that people are empowered because the Rabbi did a heroic job in Texas,” Katzman said.
Katzman says anti-Semitism has been on the rise in recent years. In 2019, worshipers at Temple Emanuel saw some of that hatred firsthand.
“There were posters that had swastikas that were affixed to our synagogue doors and it is really sad to know that people have such hate toward the Jewish community. But we were really grateful that that situation did not escalate and was handled by local authorities,” Katzman said.
One of the missions of the federation, in addition to serving the community, is to build bridges with other faiths and combat hate.
“We need to teach our children to love and not hate and celebrate differences. I think that’s what society needs to do as a whole,” Katzman said.