Posters on the window of a coffee shop on Murray Avenue at Squirrel Hill, in response to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

“Our Kids Are Suffering”—Preparedness Saves Synagogue From Tragedy

In Pittsburgh, in Poway, in Colleyville the story was the same: a synagogue is attacked and its community put in fear and on guard.

The story at Bloomfield, New Jersey’s Temple Ner Tamid unfolded in similar fashion but with a difference. The Molotov cocktail thrown at its doors in the early morning not 48 hours after Holocaust Remembrance Day caused only superficial damage thanks to safety upgrades in the building funded largely by state homeland security grants. Shatterproof glass protected the entrance while enhanced security cameras provided a clear image of the 18-year-old man, later arrested, who threw the device.

“Everything worked the way it was supposed to,” Rabbi Marc Katz, faith leader of the Reform synagogue which serves about 500 families, said. “We’ve unfortunately been preparing for this day for a while and we were ready.”

The congregation had been on the alert and already shaken by a host of recent antisemitic activities in neighboring Montclair, including swastikas graffitied on playgrounds and carved on desks in the high school, as well as other symbols of hate.

“Every few months, something happens. But this is the first time that there’s something directly against our congregation to this magnitude,” he said. “If things had been different, like even the wind blowing differently, we could be having a very different conversation. … That’s what’s so scary about this.”

The congregation’s religious school, which ordinarily caters to about 200 children, was closed the day after the incident, and a rehearsal for an upcoming Purim play was likewise canceled out of concern that it would be upsetting for members to see an ongoing investigation along with the damage of the assault.

“Our kids are suffering and they’re not just suffering because they’re Jewish,” Rabbi Katz said. “So we have to be responding with a bit of a wider lens even than just what our own community is facing.”

As part of that wider lens, Rabbi Katz wrote a letter to his flock reminding them that their trauma was part of an American situation—the most recent being shootings targeting Asians in California and the tragic death by police beating of an African American man, Tyre Nichols, in Memphis.

“This has been a horrible week for many, for the AAPI community, for the African American community, and yes, for us,” Katz wrote. “If you don’t know what to do in light of this, then offer up support to a community who is equally at a loss. Perhaps in our collective anger and grief, we can find a way out together.”