Amid higher threat levels, Jewish communities lean on $130 million initiative to bolster security

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Eric Berger | JTA

When Haya Varon relocated to Houston from Mexico City more than four decades ago, she felt like she was moving to a safer place. As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who had lost most of his family to Nazi genocide, Varon was especially sensitive to threats of violence and antisemitism.  


A police vehicle sits outside of the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, some 25 miles west of Dallas, Jan. 16, 2022. (Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images)

But these days Varon finds herself looking over her shoulder in Houston. She feels shaken not just by the armed hostage standoff last January at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and the deadly 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, but also by antisemitism at home in Houston. 

Throughout the last year, Houstonians have found racist and antisemitic flyers on their driveways, and hate speech online directed at Jews has been growing exponentially. 

“I think about the threat to Jewish institutions a lot,” said Varon, who serves on the boards of Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, the Holocaust Museum Houston and a local Jewish day school. 

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