Security Incidents, Near and Far

 

I was in the gun store, comparing prices on ammo, when I heard a voice behind me. “Do they let Jews buy guns?” I didn’t recognize the voice and, when I turned around, I didn’t recognize the face, either. He was a big guy — bulky, and at least 6″ taller than I am — with a bit of a paunch. He looked about 60. I noticed he wore a hamsa on a dogtag chain.

“Nah, they’re too scared of us,” I answered with a smile.

Soon my new friend, Rafael, and I were talking about terrorism in San Bernadino, in Paris, and in Israel. We agreed things are more likely to get worse than better. He showed me some Hebrew Facebook memes about the Paris attacks that his son had sent him. Raphael has been in the country for 30 years, but his son lives in Tel Aviv. “The latest stabbing was just a block away from his office,” he tells me.

Rafael is proud that his son just earned his concealed carry license. “You know, it’s much more difficult to get one there,” he beams.

This is true. Israel has recently been liberalizing its carry regime, and encouraging those with licenses to carry all the time, in response to a wave of Palestinian knife attacks. Still, Israeli permit requirements are difficult to satisfy. Most permitees are combat veterans. According to Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, only about 3 percent of Israelis are licensed to carry, as opposed to 5 percent of Americans.

“You carry, don’t you?” Rafael is insistent. “You should carry all the time. Do you carry?”

I reply sheepishly, “Only to synagogue.”

This past week, there were two “security incidents” at synagogues near where I live in Connecticut. On Saturday, two women wearing hijabs and caftans visited a large Conservative synagogue. A girl was celebrating her bat mitzvah, and the two women were assumed to be her family’s guests. But when people tried to welcome the women and engage them in conversation, they responded evasively and suspiciously, offering information that was contradictory and incoherent. The two women were also spotted the next night at the public Chabad Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony.

Then, a couple of days ago, an African American man in camo fatigues showed up for morning services at an Orthodox synagogue. His behavior was suspicious too, and someone called the police. The cops took him away in cuffs; it seems there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

These events have prompted important conversations in our Jewish community about the balance between being welcoming and being vigilant. Since I’ve lived here, the prevailing attitude has been that our sleepy New England town is off the radar, and that violent attacks would never happen here. Even as our community leadership discusses enhanced security, however, it is clear that the old mindset still dominates.

Of the local Jewish institutions, my (Orthodox) synagogue is probably among the more advanced in its thinking. We operate on a shoestring, lacking the resources to install the cameras or bulletproof glass or concrete barriers or intercom systems that others have. But in a way, having to rely on volunteers has given us a better system: We post sentries for 30-minute shifts. This allows us to provide a welcoming face for guests, and a quick assessment of potential threats. An alarm — which also notifies the police — can be activated by remote control. A disproportionate number of our members carry concealed weapons.

Since we’ve started this system, no one has sounded the alarm. But each of us who’s taken our turn was close to doing so at one time or another. The man with the heavy suitcase? The truck with tinted windows idling across the street? In today’s climate, nothing can be taken for granted.

According to FBI statistics, 57 percent of anti-religious crime last year was directed at Jews. Just over 16 percent was directed at Muslims. But you wouldn’t know this from following the media or listening to President Obama. This past Sunday, the President lectured us from the Oval Office on the dangers of Islamophobia:

Here’s what else we cannot do. We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam …

[J]ust as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.

CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield tried to discredit any connection between Muslims and terrorism — by citing the existence of “Jewish terrorists.” The Swedish Prime Minister who admitted last month that his country has been “naive” about the threat of native Islamist terror also denies that indiscriminate Palestinian knife attacks qualify as such.

Such attempts at even-handedness are either agenda-driven, or delusional.

San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Boston; these are “security incidents” on a national scale. Our nation’s leaders, just like my local Jewish community’s, are tasked with balancing being welcoming and being vigilant. Unfortunately, the Obama administration and its enablers appear to have agendas and delusions that make it impossible to do so effectively. I can take steps to help protect myself and my family and my community. But who will protect the country?

Published in Islamist Terrorism
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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Son of Spengler: But who will protect the country?

    Obviously not the man charged with that task.

    • #1
  2. raycon and lindacon Inactive
    raycon and lindacon
    @rayconandlindacon

    Your argument is so easily supported that it almost goes without saying, except the media and government are in a constant harangue about the peaceful Muslims who are the imagined victims of American bias.

    Never forget that we Evangelical Christians can easily see ourselves sharing your place as a target of evil, once our numbers fall dramatically.

    • #2
  3. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Son of Spengler: Such attempts at even-handedness are either agenda-driven, or delusional.

    I vote for agenda-driven myself.

    raycon and lindacon: Never forget that we Evangelical Christians can easily see ourselves sharing your place as a target of evil, once our numbers fall dramatically.

    I don’t think it requires numbers to drop so much as for the propaganda to continue to escalate.  The anti-Christian rhetoric I hear and see is nowhere near as virulent yet as the anti-Jewish screeds (which are themselves usually disguised as being “anti-Israel, but not anti-Jew”), but it is out there, and it is growing.  After that Planned Parenthood shooting I saw a definite uptick, from people I thought knew better, in denunciations against evangelicals, Catholics, and Christians in general.  You need also look no further than the virulently anti-Christian pro SSM lobby.

    We’ve got the makings of another civil war brewing now.

    • #3
  4. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Son of Spengler: But in a way, having to rely on volunteers has given us a better system: We post sentries for 30-minute shifts. This allows us to provide a welcoming face for guests, and a quick assessment of potential threats. An alarm — which also notifies the police — can be activated by remote control. A disproportionate number of our members carry concealed weapons.

    Sounds like you have a great system. Self-reliance like yours is the first line of defense – sounds to me like you have your own well-regulated militia. Keep up the good work and stay safe.

    • #4
  5. Evan Pokroy Inactive
    Evan Pokroy
    @EvanPokroy

    Wow, that clip from CNN got to me. The moral equivalence brigade is in full force! The Jewish Defense League, whose tactics, in many cases, were way out of the range of acceptable, had the goal of protecting Jewish lives that were being threatened at the time. Its membership and support was never more than a handful of people. Its leadership was roundly condemned by the Orthodox Jewish leadership. With that, they believed wholeheartedly in the general classical liberal ideals of America, mostly that leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone. That is a far cry from the general push of Salafist Islam.

    Truth be told, there have been lots of different groups in America’s past with terrorist ties. With the exception of Communists, none of them wanted to overthrow America and replace it with a totalitarian death cult and it’s willfully ignorant and downright evil for Banfield to make the comparison.

    We have a saying in the Talmud that “those who are merciful to the cruel end up being cruel to the merciful.” That seems to be playing itself out on the world stage once more.

    • #5
  6. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    I am glad to hear that your synagogue leaders take their own security seriously.  Evangelical Christians and Jews who are observant know that they both have big targets on their back from groups of all sorts.  My church recently had a prominent Jewish speaker and our security conscious pastoral staff recognized the need to ensure we had members ready to respond to potential threats, moreso than just on any given Sunday.  It is as a result of threats against Christians too, that led to the changes we have been discussing in another thread at Liberty University.

    • #6
  7. David Sussman Contributor
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Our synagogue has similar security, usually at the entrance to the parking lot. They nod at those they recognize and stop those they don’t.

    Like you, being in a smaller town has it’s advantages, but our biggest threat as a congregation, and as a people, is complacency.

    • #7
  8. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    David Sussman:Our synagogue has similar security, usually at the entrance to the parking lot. They nod at those they recognize and stop those they don’t.

    Like you, being in a smaller town has it’s advantages, but our biggest threat as a congregation, and as a people, is complacency.

    It is such an interesting situation to find yourself in, don’t you think?  I feel for both you and SoS, and the rest of our Jewish members who really do need to be on guard somewhat more than many of us.

    It’s sad to think about that in a church, though … when I was testing out various carry-styles (still haven’t perfectly settled), I carried to church one week.  I found myself in that mindset.  Sitting near an exit, looking around at where I’d shove my family if anything happened, looking at my backstop and basically just trying to be situationally aware.  (incidentally, I wasn’t going out of my way to do this; for some reason, those thoughts just always pop into my head when there is a gun on my belt)

    Of course, that made me think about the actual content of the service; about God, about what sort of mindset I’m supposed to be walking into church with.  I have some sympathy for my pacifist-Christian friends, and I get where they’re coming from when it comes to focus.  There is much in the Bible that charges us to be vigilant with those around us, but also to trust God and to not put too much stock in our home on earth.

    I worry about the need for security – reading SoS, above, I’m worried for my Jewish friends in particular.  But I also worry about the unforeseen consequences; the mindset that we find ourselves in when having to deal with these sorts of circumstances to begin with.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Son of Spengler: Such attempts at even-handedness are either agenda-driven, or delusional.

    Those categories are not mutually exclusive.

    • #9
  10. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    This past week, there were two “security incidents” at area synagogues. On Saturday, two women wearing hijabs and caftans visited a large Conservative synagogue. A girl was celebrating her bat mitzvah, and the two women were assumed to be her family’s guests. But when people tried to welcome the women and engage them in conversation, they responded evasively and suspiciously, offering information that was contradictory and incoherent. The two women were also spotted the next night at the public Chabad Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony.

    Then, a couple of days ago, an African American man in camo fatigues showed up for morning services at an Orthodox synagogue. His behavior was suspicious too, . . .

    These events have prompted important conversations in our Jewish community about the balance between being welcoming and being vigilant.

    This past Sunday during one of our morning services, a man walked in dressed rather scruffy, carrying a huge backback and wearing sunglasses.

    While scruffy-dressed men are not unusual at our church, the addition of the backpack and the sunglasses alarmed a few people who quickly moved into positions around him and then after services talked to him and did their best to be, as you say, “welcoming,” but “vigilant.” This is a balance we are trying to strike as well.

    After the service he left with one of our long-time regulars who we assume knew him — so that helped calm down the staff a bit. But we’re really confronting a “new normal” these days.

    • #10
  11. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    There was an incident here in Charleston at a local Catholic Church. A man walked up the aisle after the second reading and stood in the middle of the altar, turned and faced the congregation, spread his arms,put his hand in his jacket and pulled what seemed to be a gun and pointed it to his head. The entire congregation just sat there. No one moved or attempted to hide or run. It took several minutes to realize that the gun was made of wood. He was finally removed by some ushers. It turns out he is a local man with a history of mental illness.

    • #11
  12. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Ryan M:It’s sad to think about that in a church, though … when I was testing out various carry-styles (still haven’t perfectly settled), I carried to church one week. I found myself in that mindset. Sitting near an exit, looking around at where I’d shove my family if anything happened, looking at my backstop and basically just trying to be situationally aware.

    One of the things that came up for discussion at our staff meeting this week was “Can we find out who in our congregation is carrying, just in case we need them in a crisis?”

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    There is a recently passed state law that outlaws weapons in places of worship back in Illinois. That is bad enough, but the idiots mandated posting a gun-free zone placard announcing the supposed weaponless status of the congregation. I say “supposed” because there are police officers who worship there. They are required to have their weapons with them. Still, this law protects no one.

    • #13
  14. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Percival:There is a recently passed state law that outlaws weapons in places of worship back in Illinois.

    Outlawing guns in places most likely to be targeted.

    So Illinois.

    • #14
  15. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    And Ohio too.

    • #15
  16. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Scott Wilmot:

    Son of Spengler: But in a way, having to rely on volunteers has given us a better system: We post sentries for 30-minute shifts. This allows us to provide a welcoming face for guests, and a quick assessment of potential threats. An alarm — which also notifies the police — can be activated by remote control. A disproportionate number of our members carry concealed weapons.

    Sounds like you have a great system. Self-reliance like yours is the first line of defense – sounds to me like you have your own well-regulated militia. Keep up the good work and stay safe.

    Thanks. It’s remarkable, though, how many people in our congregation question the need. And as people come in, many can’t resist making some joke about being wanded, or talking into their cuff. There’s nothing harmful about the jokes, but I do wish people would just accept the reality and move on.

    • #16
  17. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Ryan M: I also worry about the unforeseen consequences; the mindset that we find ourselves in when having to deal with these sorts of circumstances to begin with.

    The mentality is essential. One of the points of contention for the sentries has been whether they can continue to pray while on their shift. Best practice is, of course, to remove your tallit (prayer shawl), leave your prayer book behind, and give all your attention to the area around you. This rubbed some people the wrong way, though. Fortunately, the mentality thing runs both ways — when I’m in the sanctuary, I can give my full attention to the service, because now that someone else is watching out for our safety it’s something I don’t need to think about.

    • #17
  18. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Percival:

    Son of Spengler: Such attempts at even-handedness are either agenda-driven, or delusional.

    Those categories are not mutually exclusive.

    Yes, Skip made a similar point. Let’s go with logical OR. ;-)

    • #18
  19. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    PHCheese:There was an incident here in Charleston at a local Catholic Church. A man walked up the aisle after the second reading and stood in the middle of the altar, turned and faced the congregation,spread his arms,put his hand in his jacket and pulled what seemed to be a gun and pointed it to his head. The entire congregation just sat there. No one moved or attempted to hide or run. It took several minutes to realize that the gun was made of wood. He was finally removed by some ushers. It turns out he is a local man with a history of mental illness.

    Whoa.

    There is a local homeless man (not Jewish) who stops in most weeks toward the end of services and eats some of the kiddush snack. He’s a small older man who appears to have all his faculties. I wonder how people would react if he were younger, larger, and/or louder. I also wonder whether, in the context of the “new normal”, whether he would be welcomed the same way if he first began visiting today.

    • #19
  20. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    DrewInWisconsin:

    Ryan M:It’s sad to think about that in a church, though … when I was testing out various carry-styles (still haven’t perfectly settled), I carried to church one week. I found myself in that mindset. Sitting near an exit, looking around at where I’d shove my family if anything happened, looking at my backstop and basically just trying to be situationally aware.

    One of the things that came up for discussion at our staff meeting this week was “Can we find out who in our congregation is carrying, just in case we need them in a crisis?”

    I make it a policy not to tell anyone when/whether or not I’m carrying. (I made a rare exception in the situation I described at the start of the OP.) The wisdom of that was borne out when I learned that a member of our synagogue’s “security committee” told his son who carries each week, and the son told all his friends.

    In general, you don’t want your congregants to know. In a crisis, everyone will turn to those people, and reveal to intruders who their biggest threats are (i.e. who their first targets should be).

    • #20
  21. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Son of Spengler: According to Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, only about 3 percent of Israelis are licensed to carry, as opposed to 5 percent of Americans.

    Five percent is low (and may be a low estimate). A concerted effort to double that nationwide (a mixture of small increments in highly armed communities and large increments in disarmed communities) would seem to be a moral imperative. (Not the only, or most important, moral imperative, I will admit.) Programs to assist the poor and minority groups to afford qualification and licenses would seem a fine liberty-loving outreach opportunity. Indeed, I think there are Ricocheteers involved in similar matters.

    As to the necessity to protect congregations with deadly force – I can only pray that no-one is put in the position of having to make a terrible decision: but if he or she is, that his or hand is steadied and conscience salved.

    • #21
  22. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Son of Spengler: I reply sheepishly, “Only to synagogue.”

    Bad answer.  You need to carry other places as well.  If something happens at your synagogue and this is your answer there could be legal repercussions as prosecuting attorneys looking to make a name of themselves can use this answer to prove that you placed yourself into harm’s way and thus are somewhat responsible for the event.  While you would not be charged with murder such an answer could get you charged with manslaughter.

    • #22
  23. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Yes, when I heard this administration make the claim about anti-muslim bias, I laughed.  Pure nonsense.  Good for you that you protect your synagogue.

    I didn’t know people can just walk into one.  The only times I’ve entered a synagogue is for being invited to religious occasion (funerals, I think mostly) and asked off the street (I live in a relatively Orthodox Jewish neighborhood) to put on some electrical item during the Sabbath they forgot to leave on.

    • #23
  24. She Member
    She
    @She

    skipsul:

    Son of Spengler: Such attempts at even-handedness are either agenda-driven, or delusional.

    I vote for agenda-driven myself.

    raycon and lindacon: Never forget that we Evangelical Christians can easily see ourselves sharing your place as a target of evil, once our numbers fall dramatically.

    I don’t think it requires numbers to drop so much as for the propaganda to continue to escalate. The anti-Christian rhetoric I hear and see is nowhere near as virulent yet as the anti-Jewish screeds (which are themselves usually disguised as being “anti-Israel, but not anti-Jew”), but it is out there, and it is growing. After that Planned Parenthood shooting I saw a definite uptick, from people I thought knew better, in denunciations against evangelicals, Catholics, and Christians in general. You need also look no further than the virulently anti-Christian pro SSM lobby.

    What I think is most interesting is the language used by those on the Left who want to comment on others’ religions and the propensity for prejudice and violence that are, in their minds, inherent in them.

    Thus, the adjective often favored to describe Christians who are in bad odor with current progressive thought is “fundamentalist.”  (Small “F,” not necessarily spoken by anyone who is familiar with what that word may mean in a historical context.)

    The adjective that I see increasingly associated with Jews who are not in favor is “orthodox.”  (Same thing, not necessary to know what it means, just “orthodox.”)

    In both cases, the adjectives used drive home the point that it’s the religion that’s the problem, and that close adherence to the religion is what causes the bitter clinging bigotry and hatred that the Left, in its strong imagination, believes are on display, or which it invents to react against.  And in neither case does the Left have any problem with calumniating millions of people, and their religion, by  treating the religion, and its adherents, as one and the same.

    But Islam?  Those people are not Muslims.  They are as far from their religion as they can get.   They’ve been “radicalized” away from it.  Don’t ever mention the words “Islam,” “Muslim,” and “terrorist” in the same sentence.  Don’t ever put them on the same page.  Better yet, don’t ever mention them at all.

    Did I forget to mention, these people are not Muslims?

    See how this works?

    How about we just start talking about Muslim Fundamentalism? With an upper case “F.”

    • #24
  25. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Fake John/Jane Galt: If something happens at your synagogue and this is your answer there could be legal repercussions as prosecuting attorneys looking to make a name of themselves can use this answer to prove that you placed yourself into harm’s way and thus are somewhat responsible for the event.

    I’ve been reconsidering anyway, but this is a good point I hadn’t considered.

    • #25
  26. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Son of Spengler: “Only to synagogue.”

    It is sad that this is the place where you feel the greatest need to protect yourself, but I understand.

    One of the ministries I am a part of at my church is security. We are a large (but not mega) Messianic congregation. We have people at the front gate greeting everyone as they drive in. Then in the back lot we have others helping people find spots, and then greeting and watching to see if they are carrying anything in with them. Inside we have people throughout the sanctuary keeping a look out and praying with eyes open.

    Walking around with an earpiece and talking into the microphone on your sleeve usually feels a little silly in such a normally safe place. More often than not the biggest issue is trying to tell which one of our known eccentrics forgot to take their meds. But the threats can be real so we try, as much as possible, to not be a soft target.

    • #26
  27. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    There is a big advantage to praying in ultra-orthodox shuls. It is quite difficult to “pass” – there is so much to body language and appearance and demeanor and familiarity with the services, etc. that we take for granted. There is no “off the street” traffic.

    Any attack here would not even try to blend in. It would be someone coming in “hot”. We need more people carrying.

    I could get a carry permit (there is now a widely-used loophole in Maryland that basically makes it possible). I have held back for 2 reasons:

    1: I am not yet fingerprinted, and do not want to volunteer my prints.

    2: Though the permits can be readily obtained, carrying to shul on Shabbos (when I have no money on me anyway) would be a violation of the permit rules in my state.  So in the event that I was involved in a situation, I would still be in violation of the law, and liable.

    So I carry sprays, and give them out. Non-lethal, totally legal, and (in their way) effective. Not much range, though.

    • #27
  28. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    “If you’re a church leader, and your church does not have a disaster plan, MAKE ONE, for God’s (literal) sake. That plan should cover fire, armed intruders and whatever natural disasters are common to your region. Have a plan. Have a backup plan, and have the means to put those plans into action.”

    • #28
  29. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Ryan M: It’s sad to think about that in a church, though … when I was testing out various carry-styles (still haven’t perfectly settled), I carried to church one week.  I found myself in that mindset.  Sitting near an exit, looking around at where I’d shove my family if anything happened, looking at my backstop and basically just trying to be situationally aware.  (incidentally, I wasn’t going out of my way to do this; for some reason, those thoughts just always pop into my head when there is a gun on my belt) Of course, that made me think about the actual content of the service; about God, about what sort of mindset I’m supposed to be walking into church with.  I have some sympathy for my pacifist-Christian friends, and I get where they’re coming from when it comes to focus.  There is much in the Bible that charges us to be vigilant with those around us, but also to trust God and to not put too much stock in our home on earth.

    This is the problem. And it’s a difficult one. The chances of an attack on your church are so small…but they aren’t non-existent. There are crazies who trace a kind of mimetic lineage back to Dylan and Klebold; they exist. There are crazies who decide that black people, or jews, or People-With-Turbans are an appropriate target, and crazies who figure killing little kids will do the trick…these exist. But they aren’t common. Media exposure makes them feel common.

    This is what I find difficult to express properly, to LEOs and others, because I understand why they carry…and yet I want them to give themselves permission not to carry sometimes: Carrying a weapon is a burden. It makes you responsible. Of course you think about what you would do if X or Y happened, and of course that gets in the way of worship or playing at the playground with your kids or whatever else you are doing. How could it be otherwise? So, when do you get to lay that burden down? I ask this of police officers, because omni-responsibility is hugely stressful, but I’d ask it of all of you, too.

    • #29
  30. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I still wake up every day and shake my head at what I see and hear – astounding. SOS – how long has your congregation / area felt like this – in other words with the need for the security plans etc.? We left Boston in 2003 – even after 9/11 and things settled down, I never heard or read of the uneasiness that you (and others) live with. We were reminded by Bush to be vigilant, we had the HS alert color system – there was always communication from either Bush, the Dept. of HS or his military advisers, so you felt a reassurance that someone was watching out.

    I don’t feel that anymore. I never thought in our great country in 2015, that we would have to fear going to church, synagogue, or anywhere…….and it’s changed to this point very fast.

    • #30
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