Rabbi Ponders Security for Her Congregation at Har Shalom
With anti Semitic violence outbreaks in this country and around the world, Missoula’s Jewish Community, Har Shalom sits on a busy Russell Street, headed by Rabbi Laurie Franklin who is pondering the idea of security for her small but close-knit congregation.
“There have been ongoing discussions throughout the entire Jewish community about what we should be doing at this time and there’s no one view,” said Rabbi Franklin. “We’re all united in that we all want to be safe and we want our places of worship to be inviting and open, and so we have to balance those qualities and then do what we have to do. It’s a crazy world where we have to think about the possibility of locking our doors and the possibility of using specialized equipment to protect ourselves.”
Franklin said a campaign is underway to replace their aging doors with sturdy doors with heavier glass and what are called ‘panic bars' for security.
“We now also have a code-activated keypad on one of our doors so those who want to have access to the building,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to keep everyone in the building as safe as possible with regard for their humanity and with love. There is a watchfulness that we’re all engaged in as part of the community. If we don’t recognize someone, literally encountering them and saying hello so that we can know who’s in the place and common sense things like that.”
Franklin said there is a school that operates in the Har Shalom building during the week.
“We do have a Montessori School under our roof which we are blessed to have and so the keypad and code system is largely for their protection,” she said. “What’s interesting is that a couple of years ago, we were all walking around saying ‘we don’t want to do this’, and yet in a very short time it has become very sadly our ‘new normal’”.
Franklin said that Har Shalom is a member of the Interfaith Collaborative with many of the Christian Churches but was not aware of the church security seminar this weekend at Christian Life Center. She said that Har Shalom has a close relationship with the First Christian Church just a few blocks away on Russell Street.