In the aftermath of the tragedy that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the congregants of other temples around our country remain fearful and floundering as they seek solutions about how to deal with the concern of what if this happens at our shul. At our temple here in Ithaca, there have been many discussions and countless emails about how to handle security issues. As the date of our annual Hanukkah Festival approached, the event planners and the temple board searched for answers. How would we protect ourselves and our many guests from unwanted intruders? How would such individuals be identified?
Several of us volunteered to stand by and open the locked doors as those attending the event entered and exited. The question of how many doors to “man” arose and ultimately we decided to use only one point of entrance and exit.
As I dressed in my warmest sweater and prepared to take my shift at the opening and closing of the sole entry door on a wet, cold Sunday morning, I wondered what this experience would present. Many of those who figured out why we were there wished us a “Happy Hanukkah” as they exited and thanked us for volunteering for this duty on behalf of all who attended. I was touched by the kindness of those who took a moment to recognize our work.
The most moving moment for me occurred upon my greeting a young family with a beautiful two year old son who came to the door. I immediately noticed that the child was carrying a little black and white car. When I asked him what he was holding, his parents told me that it was a toy police car and it had just been given to him by the Ithaca policemen who were right outside the temple keeping an eye on things. The parents further recounted how the police had interacted with the boy in a warm and positive way. I am guessing that this event was the high point of the two year-old’s trip to the Hanukkah Festival.
Up until that family arrived, I had not realized the manner in which the police were assisting us. I knew that we had contacted them and asked them to be aware of our event, but I think that this very visible presence was their idea. In fact, the kindness and interest in assisting the temple by our local police has been apparent in many ways since the horrific event in Pittsburgh last month. While I know that anything can occur anywhere at any time, I am moved by the warmth exhibited toward the members of our synagogue by our police and extremely thankful for this era of community policing that exists. It is quite special to feel so embraced by those in charge of keeping us all safe and I appreciate the very competent and caring support.