Faith and Fear: New funding for armed guards at Jewish houses of worship

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Jews in America are increasingly under attack, according to a recent study.

The Anti-Defamation League says anti-Semitic attacks doubled in 2018.

In the wake of that, and deadly shootings at two U.S. synagogues, the local Jewish community is sharpening its focus on security.

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That includes armed guards at houses of worship.

Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington has been the faith home of Liz Shafran and her family for more than a decade.

"This place means a lot to us. It's the place we come in times of celebration. It is the place we come in times of grief."

She never thought it would be a place she should feel unsafe.

But deadly attacks at synagogues in Pittsburgh last October and California last month shook everyone here.

"All the sudden you have to have conversations with your kids about if you are confronted with this, or this happens, this is what you need to do. And the hardest question to answer at all is why would I be targeted because of the beliefs that I have? And there is no right answer to that. There is no way to answer that."

Rabbi Richard Kellner says security and safety conversations are not new but have come into sharper focus.

"(We) want to make sure that they know where the exits are, want to make sure they understand what our own safety protocols are and to know that they feel safe- and that we're all looking out for one another. We're grateful for the trainings that we've had that have taught us to be prepared. Even in the last six months, those preparations have increased so that we are thinking. And we are prepared."

Those measures have included police and armed guards.

Liz remembers bringing her daughter here the day after the Pittsburgh attack.

"And I walked in with her because I needed to walk in with her. I needed to show her that there was no fear, that this was still the place it has always been, knowing that there was a police officer there, having that friendly face...that was nerve-racking and indeed very comforting though. It had to happen."

"It's really upsetting that we have to think about this," said Kellner. "One would wish that we could just live freely without having to get checked when we walk into a door, or have to have different security measures in place. but we don't live in a world like that anymore."

The non-profit group JewishColumbus this week announced a plan to cover the cost of armed guards at 16 local synagogues and Jewish centers.

It's an estimated expense of $500,000, and will include active shooter trainings.