North Texas Jewish communities are placing a renewed emphasis on safety and security.
As Rosh Hashanah approaches, marking the Jewish new year, about 30 members of Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth were trained on how to respond if someone shows up to the synagogue intent on causing harm.
The training was given by the Secure Community Network (SCN), which bills itself as “the official security organization of the Jewish community in North America.”
Barry Abels, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth & Tarrant County, said the training is part of an ongoing process of preparedness.
“Everybody is going to be much more prepared should something happen,” he said. “Holidays are approaching, and so we’re trying to be extra vigilant in helping people understand … personal security.”
In addition to training, a panel is scheduled for Sunday evening. It will include representatives from local police departments and the special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Office of the FBI.
“Any house of worship, any workplace needs to have similar training because you never know what’s going to come up,” Abels said. “If you’re an organization or a worship community that’s not doing something about safety and security, it’s time to think about it.”
Armed with a pistol, 44-year-old British Pakistani Mark Akram took four members of the synagogue hostage, including the rabbi, during a Sabbath service on January 15, 2022.
An 11-hour standoff ensued between Akram and law enforcement officers from local, state, and federal agencies. The standoff ended when tactical officers from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team entered the synagogue and fatally shot Akram.
All four hostages were unharmed, but the incident highlighted a need for local religious communities to be prepared for potentially violent attacks.