While the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has shaken many, the Baltimore Jewish Council notes that there are no specific new threats against the local community, though BJC is encouraging continued vigilance.
“It was horrifying for all of us to see an assault on democracy like that,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the BJC. “I was particularly offended by some of the anti-Semitic images that I saw afterward. … But all across the board it was awful. And it didn’t represent the America that I think any of us believe we live in.”
A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that about three-quarters of Americans aware of the incident are somewhat or very concerned about violence in the next year from anti-government and militia movement members and white supremacists, according to Meredith R. Weisel, senior associate regional director of the ADL.
“My personal reaction was outrage,” said Nathan Willner, general counsel for the Baltimore Shomrim Safety Patrol, regarding the events at the Capitol, “and [it was] disheartening to see any type of violence on our nation’s symbol of democracy.”
According to Libit, the Capitol attack had not inspired a major rethinking of security in Baltimore’s Jewish community. Libit said he doesn’t believe it represents a threat to the Baltimore community.
“Whenever there’s an incident of a significant magnitude, we do pause and make sure that our security’s in place,” Libit said. “It’s a good opportunity to review, but … the Jan. 6 events were about what was going on in Washington. I don’t think we felt particular direct threats against the Baltimore Jewish community.
“That doesn’t mean we can let our guard down,” Libit continued. “We always have to be on alert.”
The community has been at an increased level of vigilance since the Sept. 11 attacks, Libit said, while subsequent events, such as the Pittsburgh shooting, have prompted reviews of security. He explained that local institutions have been repeatedly reviewing their procedures and investing millions of dollars in different security measures, including camera systems, door locking systems and personnel.
BJC pays close attention to possible security concerns or threats, Libit explained, taking the initiative to communicate those concerns to the leadership of different institutions, such as synagogues, day schools and various agencies of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore. He added that the BJC also provides the community with updates on behalf of law enforcement. Federal, state and local governments have provided support through training, critical information and grants to enhance security, Libit said.
Willner agreed with Libit’s assessment. He said that the Capitol attacks did not have a major impact on how Shomrim views its approach to security issues.
“It definitely reconfirmed what we already know, [which] is that there are white supremacist hate groups that are very active in this country, and it just made us focus to redouble our efforts to make sure our community at large … are on alert,” Willner said.