Pittsburgh synagogue shooting raises fears for South Shore shuls

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In the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, Five Towns Jewish congregants were understandably concerned that their shul could be a target.

Alleged gunman Richard Bowers killed 11 Jewish people on that Saturday. He admitted to the police officers that took him into custody that he wanted to kills Jews. Six others were injured, including four police officers. He was indicted on 44 counts on Oct. 31.

To assuage fears and address concerns, roughly 120 people attended a forum that included Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky at Young Israel of Woodmere synagogue on Oct. 30. The recently formed Five Towns Jewish Political Action Coalition organized the event.

That the year anniversaries of the Las Vegas shooting, where 59 people were killed, and of the Chambers Street truck ramming that killed eight people, were on Oct. 1 and 31, respectively, only seemed to intensify an already uncertain environment.

“We just started the Five Towns Jewish Political Action Coalition and its purpose is to keep the community engaged on issues of importance to a community our size,” said Steven Zuller, one of founders of the group and a past president and chairman of the Young Israel board. “There was a lot of information given by Commissioner Patrick Ryder and County Executive Laura Curran. A lot of practical information that our community that has so many different synagogues and schools that people will be able to utilize.”

Ryder explained the police matrix, an evidence-based research-to-practice translation tool that organizes moderate to very comprehensive evaluations of police interventions visually, offering agencies and researchers the opportunity to view the field of research. It categorizes and visualizes evaluated police tactics according to three common dimensions of crime prevention — the nature of the target, the extent to which the strategy is proactive or reactive, and the specificity or generality of the strategy. The matrix is systematically updated.

Through the matrix, there a number of people, who could possibly do harm to the Jewish community, who are being watched, Ryder said. “The Nassau County Police Department will often coordinate resources to track persons of interest with our local, state and federal partners to ensure the safety of our residents,” he said, adding that patrol officers conduct daily check-ins with a point of contact at the synagogues in their coverage area. “As a police department, we also urge immediate calls to 911 if anyone sees suspicious activity or threatening behavior. “

A new infrastructure alert system called NCPD Alert is being implemented Ryder said. Synagogues need to send an email to ncpdalert@pdcn.org to enroll in the system.

Curran said the county’s elected officials are working on attaining the money needed for community security upgrades. “Anti-Semitism has no place on Long Island,” she said, noting that Bowers specifically targeted Jewish people. Anti-Semitism is defined as hostility to, prejudice or discrimination against Jewish people.

Technology is also supplementing the 911 system with the Rave App. The system supplies information about the type of incident and location using text messages. Officials said this expedites an appropriate response. For more information on the app, contact Det. Sgt. Craig Croly at (516) 573-5782 or ccroly@pdcn.org.

“We want the synagogue to be a safe haven for its members and the community at-large,” Zuller said. “We will keep doing these of events to keep the community informed and engaged.”

Have an opinion on community security? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.