The synagogue means different things to different people, but I never really felt unsafe there. After what happened in Pittsburgh, that feels naiveby Jack Mayorcas / October 29, 2018 / Leave a comment
Synagogues mean lots of different things to different Jews around the world. The variety of their design and denomination make up an essential part of the rich tapestry of Jewish life around the world.
The synagogue is a place of worship, of sanctuary, of education, of friendship, a place to celebrate life and marriage, and to commemorate those who have died.
Like many secular Jewish people in the UK, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is one of the few times in a year that I regularly go to synagogue.
As I am not particularly religious, my plan to cope with the 25 hours of abstaining from food and water involves strategically maximising my time outside of the actual synagogue itself. I go for walks in Hyde Park, and catch up with friends at other synagogues that I don’t often see throughout the year—a practise informally known as “Shul Hopping.”
I do always make it back in time for “Neilah,” which is the final service of Yom Kippur and the one that many find particularly moving.
For me, it’s a final chance to reflect on the year that has passed, think about ways in which one might change in the year to come—and a rare opportunity for one to truly step away from the stressful nature of daily life.
Despite the peaceful sanctity of the services inside, the sad reality is that huge amounts of work go into keeping everyone safe and preserving that calm.
One established feature of the High Holy Days is for members of the congregation to volunteer for the security rota. Alongside professional security staff, volunteers from the Community Security Trust (CST) and the police, security volunteers from the Synagogue play a key role in ensuring the safety of those praying inside.
We are there to welcome people who approach the synagogue, find out if they are members or visitors, ask some friendly questions and generally provide a visible deterrent. (I’ll admit I have often also found it a prime opportunity to talk with friends, or my mother, who sometimes happens to be on the same shift as me.)
According to the CST—which also monitors antisemitism—there were 727 anti-semitic incidents between January and June 2018 in the UK, the second highest figure recorded for similar periods. Over the past…