On Yom Kippur this year, at a synagogue filled with worshippers in the small city of Halle, Germany, prayers were interrupted by a heavily armed gunman.
He had just published a hateful manifesto online declaring his intention to kill as many Jews as possible, though he said he’d be content with killing even one Jew: “After all, if every White Man kills just one, we win.” The man showed up at the synagogue’s front door wearing a camera on his helmet to stream the massacre online.
Instead, his plans went awry. The synagogue door was locked and fortified. Even after the attacker tried to shoot his way inside, he couldn’t get in. He left in a rage. Tragically, this man would go on to murder two people down the street. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families for these senseless deaths — every bit as senseless as his planned mass murder of Jews.
Max Privorozki, the head of the congregation, told The New York Times that the building’s security ultimately saved their lives, limiting the shooter’s body count. “It was a miracle that the door held,” he said. “I cannot imagine what would have happened if it had not.’’
As it happened, the Halle synagogue had recently received those security upgrades — thanks to the actions of our Jewish communities.
Four years ago, in response to rising anti-Semitic violence in Europe, our partners at the Jewish Agency for Israel established a Security Assistance Fund to which our Jewish Federation contributed. The fund provided essential financial aid for synagogues, community centers and schools to upgrade their security systems with CCTV, alarms, locks, gates, and reinforced walls, doors and windows.
Using the fund, the Halle congregation had reinforced their heavy wooden door and installed an electronic security system. The precautions meant that during the Yom Kippur attack, congregation leaders spotted the gunman on the security camera monitor, kept the door locked and instructed the 80 worshippers to remain inside.
And because of you and your support of our Jewish Federation, on that frightening day in Halle, Germany, 80 Jews who had been targeted for murder were kept safe and unharmed.
At the Jewish Federation, we help keep our communities safe through security upgrades, trainings and assessments; Holocaust education; interfaith partnerships; advocacy for stronger hate crimes legislation; information-sharing and more — a multipronged approach that can make all the difference.
Help keep our communities secure. Donate to our Jewish Federation today at Jewishphilly.org/donate.
He-Brew: Learn A New Language Over Beers
Learning a language is key to a deeper understanding of any culture. How would you like a key to your own heritage by learning Hebrew from Israelis — for free?
Now through the end of March, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is offering a fun weekly Hebrew language program for people in their 20s and 30s. Join your peers and meet other young professionals over drinks and snacks, while also getting an informal Hebrew lesson from the coolest Israelis we know: Bat El Trabelsi, our Jewish Federation shlicha (ambassador), and Shmulik Levi, shaliach for Camp Galil.
In a new twist, this year’s program will also include the opportunity to pair up with Israelis who are learning English for mutual conversational practice. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?
He-Brew sessions are on Mondays, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., at the Jewish Community Services Building, 2100 Arch St., in Center City. This course is free, but registration is required. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-832-0847.