Metro Detroit synagogues step up security after Pittsburgh attack

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Rabbi Martin Herman of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, at 1457 Griswold in Detroit, doesn’t believe they’ll need to take extra safety precautions cautions following the shooting in Pittsburgh.

Detroit — The Jewish community in Metro Detroit is grieving the attack Saturday on a Pittsburgh synagogue that left multiple dead and area synagogues "remain vigilant in providing for the safety of our community."

Pittsburgh police said a suspect was in custody after the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

More:At least 10 killed in shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue

More:Trump says Pittsburgh attack lays bare ‘hate’ in US

In a letter to its congregation, Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills said while the synagogue is already taking extra steps to ensure the temple is secure, Saturday's attack in Pittsburgh "as well as other disturbing events around the country, we have decided to bring in extra security staff, beginning tomorrow."

"Sunday mornings at Temple are filled with kids, families, adults, and lots of activity — our increased security presence will be as warm and inviting as always, but provide an extra layer of protection and comfort right now. The same will be true Monday morning when our ECC families and other guests arrive at Temple," read the letter signed by Senior Rabbi Mark Miller and Executive Director Daniel Mesa.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit in a statement said their community service officers are working closely with local and national law enforcement entities.

"(We) are following this situation very closely and continuing to remain vigilant in providing for the safety of our community," the organization posted on Facebook.

"In addition to the Jewish victims, we want to acknowledge the Pittsburgh police officers who were shot. We are extremely grateful to the police responders for their response, as well as to our local law enforcement agencies that work very closely with our Community Security team to keep our buildings and campuses safe," according to the post.

The federation said it is grieving for the victims in the Pittsburgh attack. 

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their loved ones. Jewish Detroit is grieving for our fellow Jews in Pittsburgh, and for all the victims of this horrifying tragedy."

The leader of one synagogue said attacks on religious facilities in recent years prompted it to enhance security measures. 

Detroit Rabbi Martin Herman, of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue at 1457 Griswold in downtown, learned of the attack after their morning Sabbath.

"It's a tragedy," Herman said. "Many synagogues are in the suburbs with parking lots and lots of space, we're right in the middle of downtown and safety has always been a top priority." 

The downtown synagogue always has the door locked, with a doorbell, exterior cameras and a high-tech security system, the rabbi said. The security was installed after a similar tragedy in South Carolina when nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were slain in June 2015 by gunman Dylann Roof. 

Herman told The Detroit News he doesn’t believe they’ll need to take extra safety precautions as a result of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. 

"We do the best we can with what we have and fortunately, we haven't had any problems and don't think we will," Herman said. "A few years ago there was a rash of incidents taking place at synagogues throughout the country and the Jewish Federation advised about taking safety precautions."

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron condemned the tragedy and extended condolences, saying in a statement, "As Catholic Christians, we stand with faith communities around the country – and the world – in condemning the actions of anyone who commits a crime of hatred and bigotry. In particular, it is especially heinous when that crime targets people in their place of worship."

The Islamic Institute of America also spoke out against the attack, saying in a statement, "This unfathomable crime should be condemned by all people of faith and conscience. United, we send a strong message that no such crime will be tolerated by any individual."
Twitter: @SarahRahal_