Tuesday, July 23, 2024

US states move to secure Jewish institutions amid Hamas-Israel violence

Amid the raging violence between the Hamas militant group and Israel, several US states have deployed heightened security measures at Jewish synagogues, institutions and facilities.

In a statement on Monday, President Joe Biden said: “In cities across the country, police departments have stepped up security around centers of Jewish life, and the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal law enforcement partners are closely monitoring for any domestic threats in connection with the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel.”

Earlier in the day, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the allocation $4 million to secure 31 Jewish schools, synagogues and other institutions in the second largest US state.

“Working with local partners across Texas, we are actively increasing security at Jewish and Israel-related locations such as synagogues and schools,” Abbott said in a statement on Monday.

The Governor’s office said Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to “work with local partners and federal intelligence agencies on heightened public safety measures, with an intensified focus by the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Texas Fusion Center to elevate awareness about potential threats by Hamas or Hezbollah organisations against the Jewish community in Texas”.

Meanwhile, the Governor also issued an executive order directing all state agencies to refrain from purchasing goods produced in or exported from the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced enhanced security at synagogues and “other potential venues” in the fourth largest US city.

Also this week, police in New Orleans deployed officers and added patrols to synagogues, Jewish communities and other institutions.

“The New Orleans Police Department is aware of the situation in the Middle East,” said New Orleans police Superintendent Anne E. Kirkpatrick in a statement on Sunday.

The city’s Jewish community has about 12,000 members, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

A spokesperson for the New Orleans Police Department told local media that the decision was precautionary.

Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City which hosts the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel, said on Monday that he had directed the police “to deploy additional resources to Jewish communities and houses of worship citywide to ensure that our communities have the resources they need to make sure everyone feels safe.”

As a precaution, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has also “directed the New York State Police to work with local law enforcement to ensure Jewish community spaces are safe”.

In California’s Los Angeles area, which has the second-largest Jewish population outside Israel, police have also deployed extra patrols in Jewish and Muslim communities from this week.

A rabbi in Salt Lake City, Utah, said he was forced to stop services on Sunday and evacuate the synagogue after the congregation received a bomb threat.

Salt Lake City police officers searched three local Jewish institutions but did not find anything suspicious, CNN reported.

Jewish Insider reported on Monday that holiday festivities will continue as usual but that they are increasing security measures as hate crimes targeting diaspora Jews tend to spike when there is conflict in Israel.

According to the Jewish Insider report, the Community Security Service (CSS), an organisation that has trained more than 3,000 volunteers around the US to protect synagogues and other Jewish institutions, has sent detailed guidance for the coming days and weeks as they are anticipating a heightened threat level on American Jews.

In retaliation to the unprecedented attack launched on southern Israel by the Hamas on October 7, the Jewish nation formally declared war and greenlighted “significant military steps”.

As a result, the Gaza Strip is still being bombarded by Israeli airstrikes.

Since the conflict erupted, more than 1,600 people have been killed on both the sides, while tens of thousands have been displaced and injured.

According to Israeli authorities, the Hamas is currently holding upto 150 people, inluding senior army officers and foreign nationals, as hostages in Gaza.

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