It was just a coincidence, but only days after a churchgoing gunman with a white supremacist manifesto allegedly killed one and wounded three others at the Poway Chabad center near San Diego, the Anti-Defamation League came out with its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents.
The report showed that there were a total of 1,879 attacks against Jewish people and institutions in 2018, the third highest year on record.
But amid the memorials and pledges of interfaith amity, calls began to rise that those in power had to do something. The question is what?
“This shooting is a reminder of the reality and virulence of anti-Semitism,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “It must serve as a call to action for us as a society to deal once and for all with hate. People in position of authority, from elected
officials to tech CEOs, need to stand united against hate and address it, not only after it happens, but by enforcing norms and standing for our shared values.”
What would such a vision require?
In a Washington Post op ed, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), asked what would happen if “we could forget politics and just focus on keeping people safe?” Among his ideas was for Congress to pass a “domestic-terrorism statute, which would make it easier to arrest suspects before they can carry out murderous plots.”
Many politicians, Republican and Democrat, are calling for more funds to be directed toward security for non-profit organizations.
A slate of senators, led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), on May 2 sent a letter to top members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It urged them to raise the amount of money available for nonprofit security from $60 million to $75 million, according to the JTA.
“As we’ve seen recently, the threats to many houses of worship and other religious community sites are increasing and we must do everything we can to protect religious and cultural based institutions in Ohio and across our country,” Portman said.
Legislation introduced in the House on May 2 would add another $15 million.
The Chabad shooting led to another round of calling for synagogues and other Jewish institutions to improve their security.
“[Jewish places] cannot afford to have doors that are easy to open,” David Friedman, the ADL’s vice president of law enforcement, said regarding safety. He said synagogues need security plans that can be practiced, that all members are aware of so they know what to do in case of an emergency.
But Washington-area synagogues and agencies have been following recommendations set out by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the security organization Secure Community Network, according to SCN’s CEO, Michael Masters.
Every institution has its needs addressed, he added, saying that synagogues should increase the security of their entrances and make doors difficult to force open, which would
make places of worship “hard targets.”
Barbara Goldberg Goldman, vice chair of the board of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said such security considerations would have been “unfathomable” when her children attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville in the 1980s and 1990s.
Tragically, today I think that it is appropriate here to err on the side of caution, and take such precautions,” she said. “And, it’s not just for Jewish institutions. All hate-targeted ethnic schools, recreation facilities, and houses of worship including synagogues, churches and mosques must be protected from this hideous and senseless gun violence.”
Like many, Goldberg Goldman favors “that at a minimum, we need to get stringent gun safety laws enacted. Background checking is a very important and necessary tool.”
In addition to a security issue, mass killings are a public health issue and should be treated as such, according to Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine physician at the University of California (UC), Davis, Medical Center, and the director of UC Davis’s Violence
Prevention Research Program.
“Mass shootings are changing the character of public life in the United States and creating unprecedented demand for action,” the long time gun violence researcher wrote in the New
England Journal of Medicine. “The policies described here are not ‘gun control,’ whatever that term means. They uncouple harmful behavior from its consequences and help preserve our fundamental right to live safely in a free society.”
Wintemute called for better background checks and for allowing courts to have firearms removed temporarily from people who pose an imminent hazard to others or themselves but are not members of a prohibited class.
The media, too, have a role to play in ending the cycle of mass shootings. “According to a recent working paper, intense media coverage of these events may serve to glorify them in the minds of other potential mass shooters, who then seek the same attention by committing similar atrocities,” according to Greater Good Magazine.
Many others have continued to call out for diversity in education, eliminating hate speech on social media and calling out those who spout anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and other hateful speech, and to band together with other minority groups.