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US Jewish Communities Combat Rising Antisemitism: Shooter Drills and Armed Guards Implemented at Synagogues

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Antisemitism in the United States has risen in a “really horrific way”, according to the Jewish Federation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The city was home to the most deadly attack on Jewish people in America – a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018.

Eleven people were killed and six injured. A jury is due to decide in the coming days whether the gunman, Robert Bowers, should face the death penalty.

Jewish communities across the US are undertaking “active shooter” drills in response to the atrocity, and to an increase in antisemitic hate crime.

Jeff Finkelstein, the chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, told Sky News: “Antisemitism is one of the oldest forms of hatred, it’s been around for a long time. We’ve been lucky in America where it’s been kind of buried below the surface.

“As I think we’ve seen around the world, with a rise in all forms of hatred, antisemitism has popped its head up in a really horrific way, here in the United States and around the world.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate crime, recorded 3,697 antisemitic incidents throughout the US in 2022.

That was an increase of 36% on the previous year and the highest number recorded since the organisation started tracking such behaviour in 1979. Incidents recorded included harassment, vandalism and physical assault.

Weekend worship at Squirrel Hill comes with security cameras and armed guards
Image:
Weekend worship at Squirrel Hill comes with security cameras and armed guards

In 2021, the Jewish Federations of North America launched a $130m LiveSecure campaign to provide communities with security training and other protections.

Eric Fingerhut, its president and chief executive, told Sky News: “Over the last decade or more, it’s become apparent that one of the core responsibilities of each federation for its communities is safety and security and that the efforts needed to grow significantly in sophistication and in numbers because of the rise of antisemitism and the consequent rise in violent incidents.

“Since Pittsburgh, which was October of 2018, there were maybe 15 or 20 committees that had (security) programmes – now, there are over 95.”

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