POMONA (CBSLA) — A spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes has some Southland synagogues stepping up security — hiring guards and checking bags — in an effort to keep their congregations safe during the Jewish High Holidays.

“Certainly in the past couple of years, people have become more anxious,” Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz said.

Kuppetz, and the rest of the congregation at Temple Beth Israel in Pomona, gathered Friday night for Shabbat to pray and prepare for Sunday.

“It is a time of introspection of reflection, a time for us to create a plan for ourselves, a spiritual plan,” Kupetz said of the upcoming holidays.

But, Kupetz said, now is the time to create a solid security plan — and synagogues across Southern California are doing the same.

In the wake of two attacks last year that targeted Jewish people inside synagogues — one that left 11 people dead in Pittsburgh and another that left one dead and several wounded in Poway — Kupetz said his congregants have been asking more questions about security. So the synagogue is doing more to ease their fears — checking bags at the door this year and hiring more security guards.

“A lot of it is through training and awareness and access controls,” Kupetz said.

Paul Buch, cantor at Temple Beth Israel, said they’re going to great lengths to make all congregants feel physically and emotionally safe, but achieving that goal is a little harder this Jewish New Year. The attorney general said anti-Semitic hate crimes in California rose to an alarming level in 2018 — up 21% from the year before.

Both Buch and Kupetz said they have faith that hate crimes will start to decrease.

“We hope that this is a year of goodness,” Kupetz said, “and a year of peace.”


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