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Local Jewish groups discuss security, unity after attack in Pittsburgh

Temple Israel has had on-site security in place for nearly 20 years, but after this recent attack, and an increase in anti-Semitism in recent years, many are wondering if it's enough.

MINNEAPOLIS-- Members of Temple Israel in Minneapolis gathered Saturday morning to pray.

“We were all doing the same thing, Jews everywhere were gathering to worship and sing,” Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman says.

Meanwhile, a congregation, hundreds of miles away in Pittsburgh was experiencing an unspeakable act of violence.

“The hatred seems to be growing and coming out in ways we haven’t seen in many years.”

Many at the temple didn’t find out about the attack until after Saturday’s service was over.

Zimmerman says the news shocked many, leading to sadness and frustration, along with renewed safety concerns.

“There has been an uptick in anti-Semitism in this country without question.”

Temple Israel has had on-site security in place for nearly 20 years, Zimmerman says, but after this recent attack, and an increase in anti-Semitism in recent years, many are wondering if it’s enough.

“We have a security force that is with us all the time, both visible and in non-visible ways,” Zimmerman says.

Many other Jewish groups and organizations are also taking a deeper look at safety.

Within hours of the attack the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office announced added patrols at Jewish buildings across the metro.

The Jewish Community Relations Council is also having discussions about increased security.

“We worry that god forbid there should be a copycat attack. It could be at a mosque, a church, a Buddhist temple, who knows,” executive director Steve Hunegs says.

In 2017 the Anti-Defamation League saw a 57% increase in anti-Semitic acts.

Hunegs says the increase is less severe here in Minnesota.

“We saw the number incidents go from about 20 in 2016, to 28 last year,” Hunegs says. “This year we’ve had 18 incidents.”

The council recently hired its first ever full-time “director of community security” three weeks ago.

Leaders say the support from other faiths, Christians, Muslims and others, has been helpful during this difficult time.

Rabbi Zimmerman says interfaith collaboration may be the cure for this latest rise in hateful speech and violence.

"We think of this country as so full of freedom of religion and it feels like we are regressing rather than progressing," Zimmerman says.

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