Rabbis at Chicago synagogues are remaining calm, amid news of a foiled package attack targeted at two religious institutions here. But the lack of agitation and a sense of normalcy amid the threats is itself disturbing, rabbis say.
Rabbis at Chicago Synagogues Remain Calm
By TIMOTHY W. MARTIN • WSJ
CHICAGO—Rabbis at Chicago synagogues are remaining calm, amid news of a foiled package attack targeted at two religious institutions here. But the lack of agitation and a sense of normalcy amid the threats is itself disturbing, rabbis say.
Rabbi Michael Zedek of Emanuel Congregation was notified by the synagogue's security, an off-duty police officer, of the two suspicious packages. He wasn't surprised.
"It was, 'Oh, OK. Thank you for the warning,' " Rabbi Zedek recalled thinking.
But later, when visiting an ill congregant at a hospital, Rabbi Zedek saw the news on television, prompting him to call the synagogue offices, located on Chicago's far north side. He warned people at the synagogue to keep an eye out for any package. He realized it could be serious, Rabbi Zedek recalled thinking.
Rabbi Zedek plans on discussing the news with his congregation tonight, and he said it will undoubtedly come up after the service over dinner. But Rabbi Zedek said the broader issue of assessing the world today, in light of the foiled attack, is troubling.
"The horrifying thing is that we think of this as a norm," he said.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation had been out of communication for an hour Friday morning. He was visiting the house of a congregant who had a family member recently pass away. Rabbi Lopatin popped open his iPhone and saw a flurry of emails about the suspicious package from rabbinic organizations and synagogue members.
Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Lopatin sent an email to the synagogue's 350 households, mostly located in the north side neighborhood of Lakeview, telling them, "Don't be nervous but be cautious. As you should, always be cautious."
Rabbi Lopatin said the synagogue is considering heightening security, but will not make any changes to programming or services. He does not view the news as an attack on Judaism, but "everyone in the world who is alive," he said.
"I don't want to be exaggerating it, but this is part of the war we're waging against terrorism," he said. "I'm not saying just Americans, but any freedom-loving person, too. It's a tough world out there."