The Daily Northwestern

Hillel, Jewish organizations heighten security measures

Christina Salter

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Recent threats made to Chicago-area synagogues have motivated several Evanston and Northwestern Jewish organizations to increase security measures.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, two synagogues and a Jewish school were vandalized on Jan. 10. The graffiti included hate messages directed at Israel for its invasion of the Gaza Strip.

A week before, bomb threats were made to several Chicago-area Jewish schools. And on Dec. 29, a man threw a Molotov cocktail at the outside wall of Temple Sholom of Chicago, 3480 N. Lake Shore Drive.

The string of events in the area, combined with the ongoing conflicts between Israel and Palestine, sparked conversation over security practices at Jewish centers and synagogues in Evanston. The Fiedler Hillel Center, 629 Foster St., implemented new measures starting this week, said assistant director Cydney Topaz.

Hillel will now use a buzzer system at the front door, requiring any person entering the building to be buzzed in. In addition, any visitors will need to identify themselves while entering the building, Topaz said.

“We definitely wanted to be proactive,” she said. “Our main goal is to ensure the safety of the students.”

Hillel staff made the decision to up security after conversations with community partners, students and board members, Topaz said. Hillel also worked with University Police to make the changes, which will be permanent.

Student workers at Hillel were trained for the new security measures Sunday, and first implemented the procedure Monday, said Lindsey Traiman, a Hillel student staff member. The buzzer system hasn’t bothered students at all, the Weinberg freshman said.

“It’s definitely important to do, and in no way a hassle,” Traiman said.

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, director of the Tannenbaum Chabad House, 2014 Orrington Ave., said that in light of the recent attacks in Israel and Gaza, and incidents in Chicago, he is thankful nothing has occurred in the immediate area. NU cultural and religious groups value a “high level of discourse,” which has prevented any hostilities from arising on campus, he said.

The Chabad House already had “very good” security measures in place, including a buzzer system, Klein said. Klein is also the senior police chaplain with the Evanston Police Department, and said he has always been aware of necessary security measures year-round.

The only recent change concerning the Chabad House has been a heightened police presence, which has occurred at many Jewish facilities in Evanston, Klein said.

“The vigilance of the Evanston and NU police departments has helped keep security up in this area,” he said.

Area synagogues have noticed the increased police presence, too.

The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, 303 Dodge Ave., has had a buzzer and security camera system in place for years, said Jill Persin, administrative assistant to the clergy. The synagogue is now putting in place additional security at events, she said.

“There’s only so much you can do,” Persin said. “We’re just keeping our eyes certainly wider and we’re just fortunate that the Evanston Police Department is in tune with it.”

c-salter@northwestern.edu

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