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New York attacks raises concerns in Las Vegas Jewish community

Southern Nevada rabbis say Saturday’s attack at a New York rabbi’s home has rekindled congregants’ concerns about anti-Semitism and their own synagogues’ security.

“Basically, there is a sense of a mixture of fear, frustration and anger,” said Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, while “especially among older Jews, the rise of anti-Semitism has echoed fears of the Holocaust.”

“Now, I’m not saying that what’s going on is a Holocaust,” Akselrad added. But “when anti-Semitism raises its ugly head, they are, by nature, very sensitive to it.”

Some younger people, meanwhile, are “fearful but angry, and are trying to understand why is this going on,” Akselrad said.

“Yes, people are worried about what’s going on,” said Rabbi Shea Harlig of Chabad of Southern Nevada. He noted that one day after a man allegedly stabbed five people at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, N.Y., a gunman killed two people at a Texas church.

“So it’s not only our synagogues,” Harlig said, although members of the Jewish community do “feel a little nervous about what’s going on and want to talk about increasing security.”

Akselrad said the October 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh — in which a gunman killed 11 worshippers and wounded six — “became Ground Zero for when things began to change across America.”

After that attack, some synagogues and Jewish organizations that didn’t have security in place added it, and at “places where it was already in place, the protocols were re-examined and perhaps bolstered,” Akselrad said. “But no place is really business as usual anymore.

“No, we’re not fortresses. We’re not (in) a bunker mentality. We’re just doing more as a Jewish community to ensure we’re watchful and remain vigilant and resilient.”

The challenge, Harlig said, lies in balancing security with the faith community’s work. For example, while visitors now are buzzed into Chabad, “we still have services three times a day. We still have our classes. But we just have made it harder to get in.”

Akselrad notes, too, that the New York attack occurred on the seventh night of Hanukkah, a holiday that commemorates “when Jews fought back against anti-Semitism, the desecration of our holy site. Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory of the Jewish people against that act of anti-Semitism, a reaffirmation of Jewish identity and the Jewish people.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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