Jewish community has mix of concerns about Chicago bomb plot

| October 31, 2010

Walking through Sandy Springs Saturday on his way to Shabbat services, Rabbi Mario Karpuj was troubled.

"I was going to have to tell our security guard if any packages arrived by FedEx or UPS, to call 9-1-1," Karpuj, a leader of Congregation Or Hadash, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "This, at a time when I'm going there to pray."

Friday, a pair of packages bound for Jewish synagogues in Chicago were found containing explosives on-board commercial cargo jets — one in the United Kingdom, one in Dubai.

While the bombs were disabled before they could do any harm, the aftermath of their discoveries found both FedEx and UPS grounding their fleets out of Yeman, President Barack Obama calling the foiled plot a "credible terror threat," and America's Jewish community wondering whether it, specifically, was under attack.

In his Sabbath day sermon, Karpuj told the congregation what he felt this threat meant to the greater Jewish community.

"This was an attack against America," he said.

Later, he told several congregants that the implication of the threat was anti-Semitic.

"It's no accident that they targeted places that represent 2 percent of the American population," Karpuj said of the individuals responsible for shipping the explosives from Yemen. "When they see Americans, they see Jews."

Don Kramer of Buckhead was among the several dozen congregants at the Weber School's auditorium, where Or Hadash held its Sabbath service. He was one of a handful of congregation members who spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution during the meal that followed.

He didn't take the threat personally.

"Maybe I'm different, but I just don't believe I was the target," Kramer said. "This doesn't make me angry."

Congregation member Dan Weinberg of Roswell said the individuals who sent the packages may have been extremists with a vendetta against the nation of Israel.

"But I see being anti-Israel as the same thing as being anti-Semitic," Weinberg said. "We've got to remain vigilant and catch these criminals."

Bill Nigut, a spokesman for the Atlanta branch of the Anti-Defamation League, said the news was troubling to any American.

"In general, it was disconcerting for most people, Jewish or not, to hear the president use the words ‘credible … threat' in his remarks," said Nigut, who is a member of Or Hadash.

The ADL — a national organization founded to counteract anti-Semitism, hatred, bigotry and prejudice — released a warning Friday to Jewish synagogues, schools and community centers across the country to "increase mail-room security and to contact law enforcement immediately if they see anything suspicious."

Nigut said Friday's events didn't represent a one-off incident, and that the league, like national and international security agencies, was always checking for possible threats.

"We're not suggesting people suddenly be afraid that they are going to be targeted," he said. "But we encourage them to be more cautious."

At Or Hadash, congregant and Chamblee resident Aaron Stambler pointed to the Nazi concentration camps and anti-Semitic rhetoric from Islamic extremists when he said being singled out by a threat was nothing new for the Jewish community.

"We were already targets," Stambler said, acknowledging he might be more emotional if someone he knew was targeted. "But wanting to kill anyone is horrible, regardless of if they're Jews or not."

And Weinberg even found some humor as he considered the numerous stops and starts a package shipped from the Arabian Peninsula to the American Midwest had to make, he thought there were too many places for the explosives to be discovered.

"It's surreal, but almost comic," he said. "Somebody from Yemen would send a bomb to a synagogue … in Chicago? That's like something out of a Saturday Night Live sketch."

Still, Karpuj said this threat is a reminder of the climate the nation has been in since Sept. 11, 2001.

"We'll just have to live our lives," he said.

 

http://www.ajc.com/news/jewish-community-has-mix-705891.html

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security