SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — In the wake of the verdict for the synagogue shooter in Pennsylvania, we spoke to members of Savannah’s Jewish community that have been following this story since it began – some even taking steps to boost security at local synagogues.
Many synagogues across the country are increasing security measures because of threats.
Rabbi Samuel Gelman says his synagogue has done the same. They are keeping the doors locked during service and have an active shooter plan. He says they’ve even hired experts to help keep the congregation safe.
Rabbi Gelman of Congregation Agudath Achim told News 3, “We just hired a new community-wide security director. We are doing community trainings on ‘Stop the Bleed’, on awareness, on how to respond in case of an emergency. We’ve been doing those once a month here at the synagogue.”
Rabbi Gelman tells us he does not speak for everyone at Congregation Agudath Achim. He also says he takes no pleasure in the death sentence in this case – because it means yet another life will be lost.
However, he says he hopes this sends a message that no one should have to feel threatened in a house of worship.
“I hope, I really hope this sends a message to people to not do these sorts of things. I know that may sound simplistic and I wish this is the message that is received,” Rabbi Gelman said.
On Monday, a former student fired shots outside of a Memphis Jewish school. Although Gelman told me this is unfortunate, things like this are also talked about in their security meetings.
“A number of incidents in vulnerable communities, including the Jewish community, might not even be motivated by antisemitism in particular,” he explained. “Someone can just get a gun and have a grudge.”
He also said standing together will outweigh all harmful motives.
“I really believe this. People who want to hurt people, who want to kill are in the vast minority. If we stand together, all of us in here in Savannah- in America, if we stand together against hate, against racism, against antisemitism, against islamophobia – I think we’re the majority.”