Jewish communities in America should follow the example of those in Europe and put security measures in place in synagogues, Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has said in an interview, as he warned that “we are in a dangerous place in history.”
Budget cuts due to the coronavirus lockdown and an erosion of respect for police officers are creating a perfect storm that will see safety decline in New York and elsewhere, Kelly told Matthew Bronfman, chair of the International Steering Committee of Limmud FSU during an online interview.
“In the US the Jewish community needs to be more alert about who is entering community premises,” Kelly said, warning that in today’s environment, synagogues cannot be fully open environments.
Kelly, who now heads the Anti-Semitism Accountability Project (ASAP), has visited ten European countries to meet with government and faith leaders to examine how antisemitism is being tackled on the Continent in comparison with the US, he said.
“Antisemitism there is not new. Neo-Nazis have never gone away, and populism is helping them flex their muscles,” Kelly noted. He acknowledged that the threat was slightly different in the two areas – in France, for example, antisemitism is driven by the left’s support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and the Muslim community, combined with a government which, thanks to a national culture of secularism, is slow to recognize the religious rights of minorities. Consequently, people can walk around with openly antisemitic messages on their t-shirts without consequence, he said.
By contrast, it is more difficult to identify antisemitism in the US. “Antisemitic groups hang out on the net – only 20% of which is registered, with the antisemitic activities taking place on the dark web,” Kelly said.
Nonetheless, Jewish groups in the US should learn from the European example in putting stronger security measures in place. An attempted attack on a synagogue on Yom Kippur last year in the German town of Halle was foiled, saving 68 souls inside the building, after the gunman failed to gain entry, although he went on to kill two bystanders.
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