Community marks Holocaust Remembrance Day amid safety concerns after anti-Semitic attacks

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thursday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring ceremonies and events honoring those who died during the Holocaust.

At the Chicago Loop Synagogue, survivors' descendants proclaimed "never again," a phrase echoing throughout the Jewish community as a call to extinguish hatred, bigtory and genocide.

"We are mourning our grandparents, aunts and uncles and family that we never knew," said Henry Jelen, son of Holocaust survivors.

But ironically, even as they mourned those 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis simply for being Jewish, today's Jewish community again was grappling with fresh antisemetic attacks.

In a matter of months, two deadly synagogue attacks have happened. One in Pittsburgh and the other last weekend in Poway, California. These latest tragedies come as the Anti-Defamation League reported "assaults against Jews more than doubled" in 2018.

For some, these attacks are just the latest reminders that anti-Semitism continues to fester, both in the U.S and abroad. That's a frustrating reality for Michael Bauer, whose mother survived a Polish ghetto, two concentration camps and allied bombings, during which she lost an arm.

"I'm very angry that with everything that you heard my mother has survived, that she has gotten to the point in her life where she has to fear for the safety of her two sons, her three grandchildren and her seven great grandchildren. This is not what America was supposed to be," Bauer said.

Though the targeted syngagogue attacks in California and Pennsylvania bring renewed attention to security measures in Jewish spaces, this is not a new reality for this religious group. Temples have been prepared for years with cameras, guards, sometimes even metal detectors. Some synagogues telling ABC 7 that tragedy doesn't spark change because there's constant evaluation.

"We're always looking at how we can tweak things and make it better," said Chicago Loop Synagogue President Lee Zoldan.
While some may be more fearful with highprofile attacks making headlines, others continue to feel safest in Jewish houses of worship and community centers.

"The places where I feel the most safe are some of the Jewish buildings because we do take such an extra level of care of making sure that we secure the places that we're going," said Dallas Jewish community member Laura Weinstein, visiting Chicago to hear uncle Michael Bauer speak.

As the Jewish community faces new threats, tragedies like the mosque massacre that happened in New Zealand in March remind us that other faiths are in danger too.

"Stop looking at people as strangers, start looking out for each other as neighbors," said Nisan Chavkin, Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago executive director.

Chicago Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot, who attended the Chicago Loop Synagogue event Thursday, hopes to keep dialogues with faith communities open, providing resources to those groups as needed.

"I intend to be a visible presence in communities, particularly on days of worship," said Lightfoot.

Nonprofit houses of worship looking for security grant money may qualify for FEMA's Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker's team said applications are currently open and Ilinois applicants can apply through the Illinois Emergency Management Agency up to May 13.

For community members looking back on history's horrors Thursday, it was important to share stories from the Holocaust and tell as many people as possible of the dangers sown by bigotry.

"We must never forget, or 'never again' will become 'again, again and again,'" Jelen warned.
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