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October 09, 2023

Amid Hamas attacks in Israel, MoCo Police increase security around synagogues

Credit: Moco360

Montgomery County Police have increased security around Jewish institutions but know of no threats as Israel weathers attacks and wages war with Hamas, a spokeswoman said.

County elected officials, organization leaders and others this week have also expressed their support for Israel and have told community members what they can do to help the country.

Starting on Saturday, Hamas, an Iran-backed terrorist organization, has waged a historic attack on Israel, invading from the Gaza Strip and firing thousands of rockets into the region, according to news reports.

As of Monday, over 900 Israelis have been killed, over 2,600 were wounded and over 150 are being held hostage, including the elderly, women, and children, according to StandWithUs, an international, non-partisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.

At least nine Americans were killed in Israel, according to the State Department.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday declared war on Hamas. As of late Monday, at least 687 Palestinians had been killed and 3,726 injured, authorities in Gaza told The New York Times.

Montgomery County Police spokesperson Shiera Goff told MoCo360 in an email statement Monday that the department is being “hypervigilant” and is taking measures to ensure the Jewish community remains safe.

One step the agency has taken is increasing the police presence around religious institutions, Goff stated.

“As of now, there are no known threats in Montgomery County,” Goff said. “MCPD is actively monitoring the situation and is committed to taking proactive measures to ensure the security and well-being of all our residents. We remain dedicated to fostering a safe and inclusive community for everyone.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich posted his support for Israel on social media, saying, “Israel has every right to defend itself and protect its people,” and condemning Hamas’ attacks.

“The attacks by Hamas on civilian populations across Israel is the definition of terrorism—terrorism being actions that target civilian populations with the goal of creating such pain and suffering that their governments will change their policies,” Elrich said.

Meredith Weisel, the regional director of ADL Washington, D.C., said that this was “an unprovoked massacre.”

 “People are witnessing a truly barbaric terrorist organization whose only agenda is focused on death and destruction,” Weisel said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Takoma Park), Rep. David Trone (D-Potomac), Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass (D-At Large) also condemned the “horrific” attacks on social media.

“The attacks by Hamas are outrageous and horrific. Hundreds of Israelis have been killed by rocket fire, with many more wounded — including innocent civilians and children. The United States must stand with the people of Israel,” Glass said on social media.

Glass, who is Jewish, posted a photo he took while visiting Israel, showing his personal connection to this conflict.

Jewish people account for 10% of the population of Montgomery County, far higher than the national average of about 2.5%.

Alan Ronkin, the regional director of AJC Washington, D.C., said that even though Israel is far from Montgomery County, many people in the community are directly affected.

“Nearly everyone that I know knows someone who has been personally affected by this tragedy,” Ronkin said. “My own relatives had to flee their homes.”

Weisel said that the crisis in Israel has repercussions for Americans too because in the past, when Hamas attacked Israel, antisemitic hate incidents increased in the U.S.

“We know in the past that attacks on the Jewish State have prompted harassment, vandalism and violence against Jewish people in the U.S. and worldwide. We have reached out immediately to law enforcement agencies across the D.C. region,” she said.

Montgomery County residents can express their support for Israel in numerous ways.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, based in North Bethesda, is accepting donations through its Israel Crisis Relief Fund.

There are also many national organizations looking for contributions, such as the Jewish National FundFriends of the IDFAmerican Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and NATAL.

Community members can also attend the DC area Vigil for Israel, hosted by Adas Israel and the Washington Hebrew Congregation in partnership with DC area synagogues. It starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Adas Israel synagogue, 2850 Quebec St. NW in Washington, D.C., and is also available via live stream.

The event is also sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, ADL, American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Morningstar Foundation and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.

Also, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) is hosting “A Vigil of Jewish Unity & Solidarity with Israel” on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac.

JCRC is partnering with Beth Ami, Beth Sholom, B’nai Israel, B’nai Tzedek, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Har Shalom, Kol Shalom, Shaare Torah, Tikvat Israel, Washington Hebrew, ADL, AJC and JFGW.

Residents who want to learn more about the attacks can attend “Israel at War: A Webinar Conversation,” on Tuesday at 12 p.m., hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the JCRC. Ambassador Dennis Ross, counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, will discuss the current crisis in Israel on Zoom.

Weisel said that while donating to organizations, attending community events and learning more about the crisis in Israel are very important, checking in with those affected is crucial as well.

“Reach out to your Jewish friends to see how they’re doing,” Weisel said. “We want to continue to ask people to pray for the safety of their loved ones.”