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Denver Jewish community won't give in to fear following hostage situation, rabbi says

Temple Emanuel
Posted at 6:16 PM, Jan 18, 2022

DENVER — Following the horrifying hostage situation at a Texas synagogue, a Denver rabbi says the local Jewish community is filled with a sense of relief coupled with a continued sense of anxiety.

"We all saw ourselves and every member of a synagogue. We all saw ourselves in the tragedy as it played out on our TV screens," Temple Emanuel Senior Rabbi Joseph Black said Tuesday.

He says what unfolded this weekend was unthinkable.

"The idea that a terrorist could walk into a Shabbat, a Sabbath morning service, and have a 12-hour hostage ordeal was chilling," Black said.

But sadly, it's something they have to prepare for.

"Unfortunately, we have very elaborate and secure procedures in place," he said.

Temple Emanuel is one of more than 100 organizations statewide that receives training for situations like these.

"It is a very sad affair and sad reality in our midst that we have to prepare for active shooter training, for hostage training," JEWISHcolorado President and CEO Rabbi Jay Strear said.

His organization partners with the nationwide nonprofit Secure Community Network to prepare synagogues, schools and more for worst-case scenarios.

"In today's day and age, we have to be mindful of the possibility of evacuating because of fire, just as we have to be mindful of the possibility of an active shooter event," Strear said.

That kind of training has never been more important.

On Monday, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning in a letter obtained by CNN: "Faith-based communities have and will likely continue to be targets of violence by both domestic violent extremists and those inspired by foreign terrorists.

"We're an easy target, and people look for people to blame. And oftentimes, Jews take that place," Black said.

For him, the fear of being targeted simply for his faith isn't a new concept. His mother, he says, was a survivor of the Holocaust.

But what was the same then is the same now: the belief his community will always triumph over evil.

"That is who we are, and nothing will ever stop us from doing that," Black said.

On Tuesday evening, JEWISHcolorado is hosting a virtual event to discuss this past weekend's incident that will be streamed on its social media pages. It's expected to begin at 7 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m. Multiple state and local leaders, including Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, are expected to appear.