During the hostage taking that took place at a Dallas-Fort Worth area synagogue on Jan. 15, Canadian Jewish leaders weren’t taking any chances of copycat incidents here at home.
The Jewish Federation of Ottawa announced it had been in touch with the Ottawa Police Services, and while “there is no increased threat to our community,” according to Andrea Freedman, the federation president, there were extra precautions being taken.
“We would like to extend our appreciation to OPS for their immediate response and concern for public safety,” Freedman wrote in an email sent out Saturday evening.
Although most Jewish institutions in Ontario are not holding in person services or events, due to the COVID crisis, an online community game night using Kahoot that had been planned for 7:15 p.m. in Ottawa, was postponed.
“The situation in Texas is upsetting and it no longer feels appropriate,” Freedman added.
Instead, there was a regular Havdalah prayer service for the community at that time, and special prayers including Psalms were added for the Dallas-Fort Worth synagogue.
According to the FBI, it is believed four people including a rabbi were taken hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. The hostages were released later Saturday night, and the gunman was pronounced dead.
The synagogue is a Reform congregation, and was holding services in person, as well as streaming it online on Facebook when the attack began. Some of what the hostage-taker demanded was broadcast live, until police took the video offline as part of their ongoing investigation.
Montreal’s Jewish federation was also in touch with the City of Montreal’s police department about the hostage taking.
“We are in communication with the SPVM and they are monitoring the situation in Montreal,” wrote Yair Szlak, the CEO of Federation CJA in an email to the community. “At this time, we are not aware of any threats to our Jewish community.”
Jewish federations around North America have a designated security department, known as the Secure Community Network (SCN), “the only national Jewish security apparatus under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America”, according to the website of The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
Montreal’s Jewish community was receiving regular updates from that network, Szlak added.
“We are praying for the safety of everyone involved.”
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Toronto’s Jewish federation followed a similar plan.
“At this stage, there is no information to suggest that this situation has direct security implications for our local community. However, this incident remains fluid which is why we are in ongoing communication with law enforcement,” Adam Minsky, CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto said in a statement on Saturday night.
Toronto’s federation was also coordinating with “community security partners” across Canada through the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Secure Community Network, the statement said.
“We join Jews around the world in praying and hoping for good news from Texas tonight,” Minsky said.
Toronto Police Services tweeted that, “as we monitor the ongoing hostage incident at a Texas synagogue, the @TorontoPolice are increasing patrols around religious sites out of an abundance of caution.”
The Jewish Federation of Edmonton was also in touch with local law enforcement in the Alberta capitol, and extra police patrols were done around Jewish institutions, according to Stacey Leavitt-Wright, the CEO.
While there are no signs of an increased threat in Edmonton, she wrote in a message to the community, “We would like to extend our appreciation to the Edmonton Police Service for their immediate response and concern for public safety,” she added.