Stepping up security at SWFL synagogues amid rising antisemitism

A man who tried to blow up a synagogue in Colorado on Monday brought back attention to the investment Temples have made in security over the last several years to counter rising antisemitism. But, across the country and in Southwest Florida, additional protection often comes at an out-of-pocket cost for the places of worship.

Berny Anderson started going to Temple or “shul” as a little boy with his grandpa. “I look back to when I grew up we didn’t have security,” he said. “We had basically nothing. We had a groundskeeper who would watch the doors.” But, decades later, times have changed. Anderson said it is hard to be a Jew in the current climate of increasing antisemitism.

Anderson, the head of the security task force for Temple Beth El, said recent spikes in antisemitism and attacks on synagogues had increased their need for security. On Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a man in Colorado who was planning to bomb a synagogue.

Each new incident renews the need to revisit the security measures at Beth El. The new normal. “To be honest, the first thing that goes through my mind is thank God it wasn’t us,” he said. “One of the saddest things is how it’s no longer surprising that we are tragically aware.” Cameras, locks, deputy protection – it is expensive, costing a significant portion of the Temple’s expenditures.

Anderson and his team think outside the box and are looking at the kippa, which is a traditional Jewish head covering. For instance, many temples, including Beth El, ask doctors to wear red kippa to identify doctors if there is an emergency.

But despite the current climate, Anderson said he would not let the bad guys win or keep him from shul. Anderson loves his Temple and his community too much. So he will proudly do what it takes to keep his congregation safe. “Because of our history,” he said. “Because of what we’ve done. Because of what we’re doing.”

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Michael Mora
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