Local spiritual leaders balance safety with remaining open, welcoming

The fatal shooting of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday has local spiritual leaders trying to strike a delicate balance.

Posted: Oct 30, 2018 6:13 PM

The fatal shooting of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday has local spiritual leaders trying to strike a delicate balance.

"Congregations are always weighing and trying to balance being an open, welcoming community vs being a safe space for its members," said Rabbi Paul Shaktman, of Temple Emanu-El, in Utica.

It's a thought that plagues Father Paul Catena, of Church of the Annunciation, in Ilion, as he shares the word of God with parishioners.

"I've thought several times over the last five years that I've been here, I've thought at mass, 'what if someone walked in here right now and started firing?'"

Temple Emanu-El has taken measures.

"During our high holy services, we always have security present and during other times, we have other security measures in place so we know who's in the building and we know why they're here," said Shaktman, adding that he will not allow hate to turn the faithful...into the fearful.

"Our life goes on, this is not our first rodeo, Jewish people. If we gave into every threat, every attack, we'd have stopped functioning long ago."

Shaktman says safety will likely be further discussed Tuesday night.

"The board of the congregation is having its regular board meeting tonight. It's possible that it will come up. It's probably that it will come up at least in some form."

Outside the front of the temple, Temple Beth El, which shares space with Temple Emanu-El, has placed 11 intentionally-broken saplings in a row, with signs, representing 11 lives lost tragically and needlessly, in Pittsburgh.

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