SAN FRANCISCO – Amid rising tensions over the conflict in Gaza, houses of worship in the Bay Area and across the country are being warned by federal officials to boost their security measures.
A typically empty room is set to transform into a bustling gathering as the Jewish community gears up to celebrate Hanukkah at Congregation Emanu-El.
Rabbi Jonathan Singer, leading the congregation since 2013, anticipates a vibrant celebration. However, recently, the focus has shifted towards heightened security concerns.
"It's going to beautifully engaged as people are willing to come. This is our main sanctuary," Singer remarked, emphasizing the increased security measures.
Singer elaborated on the unfortunate necessity for heightened security, noting, "The fact that the Jewish community has to invest in security due to hateful rhetoric is a huge disappointment."
Security measures like metal detectors have become a common sight in places of worship amid international tension, especially before significant celebrations like the eight-day Jewish celebration.
In response to these concerns, the Department of Homeland Security has issued guidelines to faith-based communities, offering strategies to safeguard their houses of worship. These guidelines range from enhancing security measures to forming safety planning teams and identifying potential risks.
Ramy Salah, President of the Yaseen Foundation, expressed that the Muslim community has been accustomed to implementing heightened security measures due to inflammatory speeches, Islamophobic comments, and global events.
Salah highlighted their efforts in video monitoring, coordination with local police departments, and bolstering security, particularly during Friday prayers.
As tensions escalate due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, both Jewish and Muslim communities are doubling down on efforts to ensure that places of worship remain sanctuaries devoid of violence and filled with love and solidarity.
Singer emphasized unity. "We are making sure that we are a place where people can come and celebrate. The light of Hanukkah is a light of courage. We want people not to hide but to say, we are standing together as one united community and we want all people of faith, and all people of goodness to stand together against all kinds of hate," he said.
Similarly, Salah emphasized, "The house of worship, be it a mosque, a church, synagogue, needs to be a safe and protected place. for people to connect with whatever it is they need. For Muslims to come to a mosque or a Muslim community center to feel that, the same with Jews who are feeling the pressures of antisemitism in this climate, current climate, need to be protected to find comfort and solace in their synagogues."
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