SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A shooting at a synagogue in San Diego has shaken some in our own community and renewed concerns about safety in houses of worship.
Just six months ago, members of not only the Jewish community but all religions gathered at the Agudath Achim in Savannah to mourn the 11 lives lost at the Tree of life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Local leaders plan to address the latest shooting in an upcoming ceremony, but Rabbi Steve Henkins tells News 3 these vigils are becoming all too common.
“They want us to hide–they want us to not be who we are supposed to be and the only real response to that is to not be afraid,” said Rabbi Henkins.
Like many members of the Jewish community, Rabbi Henkins is sick about Saturday’s attack, but he says he won’t let hate win.
“We can still let people who have never been to synagogue come in and make them feel like this is their home and they’re spiritually welcome here and not endanger ourselves in any way in doing it and that’s the difficult balance to do especially right now,” said Henkins.
In the wake of the San Diego shooting local Jewish leaders are revisiting their own safety protocols.
“An armed guard versus an AR-15 is a real challenge. We are trying to dissuade people. That’s why we have lockdown rooms,” said Adam Solender, Executive Director of Savannah Jewish Federation. “That’s why we have cameras, that’s why we have locks on our lobbies, to try and dissuade anybody who would try to do something untold.”
Exactly six months to the day, nearly a dozen victims were gunned down at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg. Dr. Daniel Chapman spent his childhood there.
“My hometown and now San Diego,” said Chapman. “There’s a virus right now of anti-semitism that’s really taking hold in America. It’s frightening.”
Albeit frightening, Rabbi Henkins hopes the Jewish community can rise above that fear.
“It’s easy to be afraid, but its a lot harder to stand up for what you believe in and do it despite that fear and that’s the most important–it was important six months ago and it’s important now,” said Henkins.
This Thursday at 6 p.m. dozens will gather at the Jewish Education Alliance for Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Organizers tell News 3 it is a reminder of what happens when anti-semitism is allowed to grow unchecked.