Not A Good Day For A Jewish Charlottesville Congregation

Leaving aside what motivates the median Trump supporter, one of the key motivations, if not the key motivation, of Neo-Nazis specifically is anti-Semitism. Which makes this report all the more disturbing (boldface mine):

On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped)….

For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.

Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know….

When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups.

This is 2017 in the United States of America…

Soon, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue. I sat with one of our rabbis and wondered whether we should go back to the temple to protect the building. What could I do if I were there? Fortunately, it was just talk – but we had already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.

Again: This is in America in 2017.

At the end of the day, we felt we had no choice but to cancel a Havdalah service at a congregant’s home. It had been announced on a public Facebook page, and we were fearful that Nazi elements might be aware of the event. Again, we sought police protection – not a battalion of police, just a single officer – but we were told simply to cancel the event.

Local police faced an unprecedented problem that day, but make no mistake, Jews are a specific target of these groups, and despite nods of understanding from officials about our concerns – and despite the fact that the mayor himself is Jewish – we were left to our own devices. The fact that a calamity did not befall the Jewish community of Charlottesville on Saturday was not thanks to our politicians, our police, or even our own efforts, but to the grace of God…

John Aguilar, a 30-year Navy veteran, took it upon himself to stand watch over the synagogue through services Friday evening and Saturday, along with our armed guard. He just felt he should….

At least a dozen complete strangers stopped by as we stood in front the synagogue Saturday to ask if we wanted them to stand with us.

And our wonderful rabbis stood on the front lines with other Charlottesville clergy, opposing hate.

Not much else to add, except that the arson and the firefighter are both passionate about fire. They are not moral equivalents.

Even in America in 2017.

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One Response to Not A Good Day For A Jewish Charlottesville Congregation

  1. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says:

    For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple.

    Coincidence? Certainly not.
    But I will point out that there were leftist armed groups present. I wasn’t there and did not see the three men in question, but it seems possible that they were there to protect, not threaten.

    Here’s What Really Happened In Charlottesville
    A few of the counterprotesters — namely members of a group called Redneck Revolt — were armed with shotguns, assault rifles, and pistols.

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