Wallingford synagogue hires armed guard

Wallingford synagogue hires armed guard

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — A local synagogue has added an armed security guard as a safety measure, reacting to the rise of violent anti-Semitic attacks nationwide.

On Saturday, the guard was outside Beth Israel Synagogue, 22 N. Orchard St.

Dick Caplan, Beth Israel board president, said Tuesday that after the most recent synagogue shooting in Poway, California, the board wanted to find ways to “protect the congregation and people who visit the synagogue.”

One woman died and three others were injured on April 27 during the shooting at the Chabad of Poway. Six months ago, 11 people died in an attack on the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Attacks on the rise

A recently released study by the Anti-Defamation League revealed a dramatic increase of anti-Semitic incidents during the past three years.

In 2017, the ADL study recorded a 57 percent increase over the previous year in anti-Semitic incidents, the biggest annual jump in 40 years of data. In 2018, the number of anti-Semitic incidents increased by 105 percent, the report stated.

“The reasons for our having an armed guard are somewhat obvious,” Caplan said, “especially after what happened in New Haven.”

On Sunday, a two-alarm fire heavily damaged the Diyanet Mosque, 531 Middletown Ave. in New Haven. There were no reported injuries.

New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said Monday that the fire “was intentionally set.”

Protecting people locally

Beth Israel Synagogue is located in a mixed residential and commercial area, a block from Center Street with houses on three of its four sides.

While Caplan declined to go into details about the security guard, he said that if any neighbors had questions he would “chat” with them and “explain about what’s going on.”

Synagogue board member Alida Cella said Monday that the group is reviewing the most likely security scenarios for the building’s size and location, and is considering pursuing federal grants to help pay for new safety measures. 

Police Chief William Wright said Tuesday that he’s aware of the increased security at the synagogue.

Police staff met Rabbi Baruch Kaplan, of the Chabad of Wallingford, a few weeks ago in response to the synagogue shootings, Wright said via email.

“We discussed at length security at the synagogue and what some of the options might be for improved security,” he said, adding that police have increased patrols of “all of the religious organizations” in town, and continue to cover “every school, every day” with directed patrols.

Wright said police and fire departments are planning to invite clergy members and community partners to an open house to discuss security issues.

“We did this a few years ago and are looking forward to once again hosting this gathering,” he said.

Twitter: @LCTakores


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