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Jewish Federation Of Greater Pittsburgh Adding Extra Security After Texas Synagogue Hostage Situation

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The feeling of terror inside a house of worship is something we've seen too many times. After a hostage situation at a Texas synagogue, KDKA spoke with leaders in our Jewish community to see what is being done to keep everyone safe.

The FBI and Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh said there are no active threats to the community in response to what happened in Texas. The scene from Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas was the latest attack on a synagogue.

Shawn Brokos is the director of community safety for the Jewish Federation. She said when events like this happen, the immediate thought is of the local implications.

"We will be adding additional police presence to some of our locations," Brokos said.

The Jewish Federation works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement, including the FBI.

"We do see copycat threats a lot. Whether those are just hoax threats, kids trying to shut schools or people just trying to get notoriety or the media attention," FBI Supervisory Special Agent Timothy Wolford said. "It's something we've seen in the past and something we're always aware of and watching for."

There is constant training for people to know how to respond and create muscle memory. According to Brokos, it's a fine line between keeping everyone safe and causing panic.

"We want people to feel empowered. We don't want people to feel anxiety. They're constantly watching over their shoulder," Brokos said.

What's alarming to her is the rise in anti-Semitism including right here in our own backyard. She says from 2020 to 2021, the number of suspicious and anti-Semitic incidents in Jewish Pittsburgh doubled.

"When we see antisemitism on the rise , we know other communities, other faith-based communities are being targeted as well," Brokos said.

The FBI continues to advise people to report threats when they see them. If something seems suspicious inside of a house of worship, let someone know immediately.

"Oftentimes it's good to report that to an usher or a leader within the congregation and they might have a plan or contact with local police if there is a certain situation like that," Wolford said.

Training has been credited for helping the hostages escape the synagogue in Texas.

Brokos said it's a team effort to prevent these acts of hate. She said we all need to engage in safety for the betterment of our community.

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