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Another N.J. synagogue attacked

By Deena Yellin, The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) –

HACKENSACK, N.J. — Jewish leaders and law enforcement officials are tightening security measures as investigators search for the culprit who firebombed a Rutherford, N.J., synagogue Wednesday, injuring its rabbi.

Many synagogue leaders said they would re-examine security in the wake of the fourth bias incident within a month, and they will be gathering in Paramus for a meeting at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey with top law enforcement and elected officials to address security issues at Jewish institutions.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League is increasing its reward to $2,500 in the hopes that it will encourage those with information about any of the attacks on synagogues to step forward.

“We’ve seen a rise from vandalism to arson to attempted murder,” said Etzion Neuer, director of the ADL’s New Jersey office, who has sent out security alerts to area synagogues calling for greater vigilance. “Every synagogue must take extra steps to protect its constituents and building,” he said.

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli urged the community and local law enforcement to be watchful of houses of worship in their communities.

The heads of the police departments in Hackensack and Maywood, where two of the incidents occurred, said they would step up patrols for all religious institutions. Maywood Police Chief David Pegg called on residents in Bergen County to join together.

“We also ask the public if they see something, see a car, if something doesn’t feel right, to contact police,” said Capt. Tomas Padilla, Hackensack’s acting officer in charge.

The FBI has also gotten involved and has been monitoring all the attacks since last month, according to Michael B. Ward, the special agent in charge of the Newark field office. They sent a civil rights agent and a bomb technician to the scene in Rutherford on Wednesday, he said.

Many Jewish leaders say their synagogues are already armed with security systems, special glass, indoor-outdoor cameras and lighting to thwart unwanted visitors, and a growing number of temples have received state homeland security grants for security upgrades to their facilities since 9/11.

“You can’t hermetically seal the building, but we’re trying to do whatever we can,” said June Aranoff, executive director of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center.

The large Conservative temple already has a card-swiping system for access and security cameras, as well as other measures, in place, and consultants have come in recently to assess the building for more upgrades. The temple is applying for a state homeland security grant to help beef up security.

But federal funding for security at sites such as synagogues will likely be reduced this year.

In 2010 and 2011, the federal Department of Homeland Security awarded $19 million in grants for “target hardening” at nonprofit organizations considered to be at high risk of terrorist attack. Most of those grants in the state went to Jewish organizations for such things as security cameras. The line item was eliminated in the 2012 budget that Congress approved last month, as part of an overall reduction in homeland security grants. It was combined with several other programs into a single pot, and now it’s unclear how the money will be awarded. It’s possible nonprofits will have to compete with firefighters, rescue squads, police and regional command centers for the grants.

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