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Nevada's Jewish Community Reacts To Pittsburgh Shooting

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Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

People stand at a memorial for victims of Saturday's shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

A shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday killed 11 people and rattled Jewish communities across the nation. 

In Nevada, student groups and places of worship have been reporting heightened hate speech and vandalism even before the shooting. Now, they say it's time to step up precautions.

"We do have some security," Rabbi Mendy Harlig with Chabad of Henderson, "but I think it needs to be rethought. I think we need to make sure basically to keep people safe."

However, he is not sure he agrees with President Donald Trump's suggestion that armed guards are needed in the nation's synagogues. He said he would like to talk to Metro Police or security specialists to look at ways keep people safe.

Capt. Harry Fagel is with Metro Police Department. He said the department is talking with synagogues and other houses of worship about their security. 

He told KNPR's State of Nevada that Metro takes threats very seriously and thoroughly investigates them no matter who is being targeted.

Fagel said part of the problem is that people can get on the internet now and spew hate.

"I think the anonymity of the internet has led to a lot more people spilling vitriol across the land," he said, "I think that is something we all understand."

Rabbi Harlig said he does feel less safe than he did 10 or 15 years ago. He says times have changed.

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"I feel less at ease these days than I did a while ago, a few years ago, absolutely," he said.

He said he is noticing more acts of harassment like swastikas showing up around the synagogue and at his brother's synagogue, a car was lit on fire.

Atty Garfinkel-Berry, the director and campus coordinator of Hillel of Northern Nevada, agrees that there have been more acts against her students at University of Nevada, Reno and the Jewish community in general in Northern Nevada.

She said they range from anti-Semitic flyers being plastered on a synagogue in Reno to swastikas being found on campus. 

"There have been a few issues on campus last year specifically involving night time encounters that were distressing," she said. "That wasn't limited just to the Jewish community. There have been people following other students making comments things of that nature."

She said the incidents weren't enough to file charges but it did rattle some people. She said those incidents are an expression of the current climate not just towards Jews but towards young women and people of color. 

Both Garfinkel-Berry and Rabbi Harlig believe one of the best ways to change that climate reaching out to different faith groups and connecting as a community.

"I think the first way to make it better is for people of conscious to reach out to the Jewish communities when things happen just like when we reach out to the Muslim community when things happen to them," Garfinkel-Berry said.

Rabbi Harlig also says it is about educating people that we are really the same no matter our faith. 

"I think that a lot of times the anti-Semitism happens because of people's lack of knowledge," he said. "They haven't met a Jew. I think once they meet a Jew they realize they're just a regular person like any other person."

The rabbi believes people need to add light back into the community through acts of kindness to each other. 

Community-Wide Vigil

Thursday, November 1, 6:30 p.m.

Temple Beth Sholom

10700 Havenwood Lane

Open to the entire community

Guests

Atty Garfinkel-Berry, director and campus coordinator, Hillel of North Nevada; Harry Fagel, captain, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; Mendy Harlig, rabbi, Chabad of Henderson

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Sep 21, 2007

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