Baltimore’s Jewish community leaders are urging Jewish residents to practice heightened vigilance in the wake of the Dec. 10 shooting in a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey.
“As a community, we’ve all been focused on security for a long time, and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC). “Nothing we have seen from our partners in federal, state, and local law enforcement indicates a specific threat. But, as always, we have to remain vigilant.”
Baltimore County Councilman Israel “Izzy” Patoka said in a press release that his “heart breaks for the four victims — Leah Minda Ferencz, Miguel Douglas Rodriguez, Moshe Deutsch and Det. Joseph Seals — who were killed.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” the statement said, Patoka worked in with the Pikesville police precinct and Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer to have police camera towers placed at the two kosher markets in Pikesville : Market Maven Baltimore and Seven Mile Market.
In an email interview, Zachary Richards, general manager of Market Maven sought to reassure people about their safety.
“We have always had a multi-layered security plan in place that includes an active shooter scenario,” Richards said.
He also praised the city’s police: “I think that the police department response has been so great and proactive that everyone is feeling safe and moving on with daily life.”
Moshe Boehm, vice president of Seven Mile Market, said that “we have been in touch with the county police, and we have added additional security measures.”
Other Jewish-owned businesses and businesses frequented by the Jewish community have also expressed renewed interest in security measures.
“We wanted anyways to get cameras and stuff,” said Mindy Alezra of the Van Gough Café, “and I have thought about having the door locked, but I haven’t made that decision yet. But definitely it’s on my mind.”
Expressing reassurance in the safety of the Jewish Community Center (JCC), Daniel Neuman, owner of Chef Dan’s Café at the J, stated that the Park Heights JCC has “really good security. It doesn’t make a difference what you look like, everyone goes through the same security procedure. Every single guard is packing. In the building, they feel like nothing can happen. The parking lot is all gated in. They have a very strict security
policy in the JCC.”
“Unfortunately the situation in Jersey City confirmed some of the fears our organization has had for a long time, that there are multiple soft targets in our community,” said Nathan Willner, general counsel of the Baltimore Shomrim Safety Patrol. “We’re now thinking about larger, more serious events similar to what happened in Jersey City. We advise the community that if they see someone taking photographs of a religious institution, someone lingering around an area that doesn’t seem to have a specific purpose, to call us, the Baltimore Shomrim Safety Patrol, and 911.”
Patoka drew a connection between the attack in Jersey City and global incidents of anti-Semitism.
“It’s not just the incident in Jersey City. It’s incidents that occurred in Pittsburgh, at one of our shuls, the elevated level of anti-Semitism we are seeing globally, all of these things create concerns. Our awareness needs to be elevated as a community. I take it personally. My parents were Holocaust survivors. And I think we’re all aware of what happened during that period of time.”
That being said, Patoka took comfort in the security resources the Baltimore community has at its disposal.
“I would say we are lucky in our Jewish community in the Baltimore region,” Patoka said, “because we do have organizations like Shomrim, like Northwest Citizens Patrol. Our law enforcement partners are strong.
“The BJC has a significant role in security for our region,” he added. “They have a network; if any incidents occur, they get the word out to have a heightened level of awareness. They also work to identify credible threats, along with the Baltimore City and County police.”
“My message would be to remain vigilant and not take anything for granted,” Patoka continued. “If you see anything unusual, call 911 and report it. Something that seems insignificant but slightly out of place could be a threat to our community.”