Area synagogues on alert after bomb threat

| November 7, 2010

Last Friday, two suspicious packages addressed to a Chicago synagogue and Jewish community center were located on flights leaving Yemen, according to AP reports.

The packages turned out to be toner cartridges that had been fashioned into bombs and are believed to be the work of al-Qaida operatives working in Yemen. The Jewish community at Loyola reacted to these threats by releasing a statement that said they hoped for peace and had been "assured that Campus Safety would be on alert for possible terrorist activity."

However, as shocking as a foiled terrorist bomb plot may seem to those outside the Jewish community, Hillel members said they were not surprised that Jews had been the targets of such a plot.

"Unfortunately, this is not a surprise for Jews," said Patti Ray, Loyola's Hillel director. "In the world today, and not just at this time, Jews are targets for this kind of violence."

Avi Hamatian, a 35-year-old senior psychology and international studies major originally from Jerusalem, agreed.

"[These threats] are not so surprising for me, but it's a little bit surprising that it's happening in the United States, because for me the United States is a very safe place for everybody, for all faiths," he said.

Linda Haase, associate vice president of marketing and communications for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) could not comment on exactly which synagogues were targeted, but said that the JUF is working with the Chicago Police Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in

Chicago to ensure Jewish spaces in the city are secure.

"Our work in the security of the Jewish community is ongoing," Haase said. "Since 1999 we have hosted more than a dozen security conferences and will be hosting another next week."

One of the main ways Chicago area synagogues ensure their safety is by hiring security guards to monitor the doors and buildings.

"I'm from Ohio and we only use security guards for High Holy Days, but when I moved to Chicago, they always have a security guard [at the synagogue]," said Rachel Dumtschin, a 19 year-old sophomore and human services major who also serves as the vice president of Hillel. "I thought it was surprising, because I never really felt threatened."

However, Dumtschin and Haase agreed that these threats would not stop the Jewish community in Chicago from going to synagogues or practicing their religion.

"It's definitely nerve-wracking that there are people who want us dead, but I have as much right to pray anywhere as anyone else does, so that's not going to make me not go to services or not go to my place of worship," Dumtschin said.

"We will not let hate determine our agendas," Hasse said.

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security