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Missoula synagogue to bolster protections amid wave of extremist violence

Posted at 7:48 AM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 09:48:41-04
Laurie Franklin
Laurie Franklin, a rabbi at the Har Shalom synagogue in Missoula, said the recent wave of antisemitic violence and shootings has the house of worship taking measures to protect itself. (Missoula Current file photo)

-Martin Kidston reporting for the Missoula Current

MISSOULA – The weekend shooting at a synagogue in California left members of Missoula’s religious community shaken and one of its Jewish leaders saying enough is enough.

The Har Shalom synagogue in Missoula is now taking steps to protect itself, said Rabbi Laurie Franklin.

“We are literally engaged in a money-raising campaign to replace the windows and doors with break-away doors and bullet-proof glass,” Franklin said Monday. “It’s wildly absurd, and yet, that’s the world we live in.”

Saturday’s shooting in Poway left one woman dead and three worshippers wounded. It wasn’t the first attack carried out against a synagogue and other religious minorities, and it continues what experts now believe is a growing wave of anti-Semitism in the U.S.

Last year’s attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 and injured seven. Other attacks include a shooting at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center by a neo-Nazi, which left three people dead.

“I ran into someone yesterday who is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Missoula and is from Poway,” said Franklin. “She’s beside herself with this event because it was so personal to her.”

Franklin is among a growing number of religious leaders calling for systemic changes to both gun laws and hate. That includes changing laws that make it easy for “estranged persons and fanatics to gun down innocent children and people of faith,” she said.

“Governments must act to stem the global rise of right-wing nationalism that embraces murderous bigotry,” Franklin added. “We can repudiate a president who creates a climate that legitimizes the violent hate of ethnic and religious minorities.”

In Missoula, one identified man and others unknown have in recent years distributed hate literature around the city. An episode in 2016 brought the Jewish community and others together in a push to repudiate hate and anti-Semitic threats.

More recently, another round of anti-Semitic literature was found on area doorsteps and a swastika appeared at a Missoula high school.

“We need to create a well-developed, age-appropriate program of anti-Semitism reduction that is completely integrated into the school curriculum,” Franklin said. “We can’t wait.”

With guns being used more often to carry out acts of extremism, Franklin said, Har Shalom is moving to protect itself. Keypads have been installed on exterior doors and other safety measures will be made.

“If we have a responsibility of bringing people into our space, we have the responsibility to protect them appropriately,” she said. “We can’t get used to this. This can’t be the new normal. We have to speak, we have to act, and we have to make the changes in the world we think need to be made to end this senseless violence.”