St. Louis Jewish community reacts to threats against synagogues in New Jersey after FBI warning

Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - The FBI in New Jersey has found the person believed to be behind a threat to Jewish people and synagogues in the state. The online threat didn’t name any specific synagogue but broadly targeted those in the state.

The FBI in St. Louis is not reporting the same threat.

Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, Rori Picker Neiss, is uneasy after the FBI’s warning in New Jersey.

“It’s terrifying,” Picker Neiss says. “We’ve known that we’ve seen history of attacks against the Jewish community in this country. We’ve been hearing more and more stories about rising antisemitism and there’s a real feeling of vulnerability that this could happen to any of us anywhere.”

Picker Neiss says she has been keeping a more watchful eye over her synagogue in University City.

“You’ll probably find that there is somebody who is there at the front door to be a greeter,” Picker Neiss says. “There might be locked doors before you’re even able to go inside. Police presence outside of the synagogue or hired security guards. You’re keenly aware of the ways in which the feelings of these welcoming sacred spaces we’ve built have significantly changed.”

Rabbi Jim Bennett with Congregation Shaare Emeth says he’s concerned over the growing amount of hate and antisemitism across America.

Part of those concerns come with the changes in the way messages of hate are put out into the world through social media. Recent examples come from Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, putting out anti-Semitic tweets to Kyrie Irving being suspended from the Brooklyn Nets for refusing to deny having antisemitic beliefs.

“Voices being amplified maybe even bigger and louder than they traditionally would have been,” Rabbi Bennett says. “Clearly the Jewish community is concerned about the rise in apparent numbers of incidents.”

Safety is crucial, which is why Rabbi Bennett is working closely with area law enforcement agencies.

Rabbi Bennett says it has made him and the St. Louis Jewish community much more vigilant.

“Not allow those voices of hate or those people who turn to domestic terrorism even to cause us to give them a victory by being afraid or changing our commitment to the core values that we believe in,” Rabbi Bennett says.

He said he wants to amplify the positive voices in the community, hoping those will be louder than the ones of hate.