Police increase patrols near Baltimore-area synagogues and churches after Pittsburgh mass shooting

Saturday morning worship ended at Temple Oheb Shalom near Pikesville and the congregants walked out, turned on their cellphones and confronted tragedy.

Text messages and phone calls told them of a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. By then, Kenneth Davidson, director of Temple Oheb Shalom, was already checking to ensure that his busy local campus was safe.

Soon a Baltimore police car was parked outside as a precaution. Police around Baltimore and its suburbs have increased patrols near synagogues since the shooting.

“What goes through my mind first is protecting my congregation,” said Davidson, a former police officer. “It just reminds us that it can happen anywhere.”

The congregation, he said, was shaken by the news from Pittsburgh. A gunman had stormed into a baby-naming ceremony and opened fire, killing 11 people and wounding six others, including police who ran in to help.

Davidson checked the locked doors at his synagogue. The congregation relies on off-duty police officers and private security guards to keep the campus safe.

Rabbi Sarah Marion at Temple Oheb Shalom said her congregation was shocked. “There’s a lot of devastation, a lot of sadness,” she said.

A social worker is scheduled to talk to parents in the congregation today 9:45 a.m. at Temple Oheb Shalom, she said.

“The only way to cope is to gather in support and friendship and love,” Marion said, “to hold each other in times in which there are really no answers.”

Saturday afternoon, a police commander visited Temple Oheb Shalom. Davidson said the commander told him that police had no local threats, but were taking precautions. “He let us know they were taking additional steps to be in the area,” Davidson said.

One woman in his congregation had friends who worshiped at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, he said.

“Everyone is just really heartsick for them,” Davidson said.

Rabbi Sarah Marion at Temple Oheb Shalom said her congregation was shocked.

“There’s a lot of devastation, a lot of sadness,” she said.

A social worker is scheduled to talk to parents in the congregation Sunday at 9:45 a.m.

“The only way to cope is to gather in support and friendship and love,” Marion said, “to hold each other in times in which there are really no answers.”

Detective Chakia Fennoy, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Police Department, said officers will be paying special attention to synagogues and other religious institutions, but no incidents had been reported.

A spokesman for Baltimore County police said the department has increased its patrols around synagogues and stepped up checks of similar locations.

The Laurel Police Department said in a Facebook post that it was also watching area “houses of worship” more closely.

“In light of the recent shooting in Pittsburgh, please do not be alarmed if you see heightened police presence in and around houses of worship,” the post read. “We are stepping up our patrol of these areas in an abundance of caution.

“Our hearts and prayers are with all of those who have been impacted by this horrific and tragic event.”

Around Maryland, other groups denounced the attack in Pittsburgh.

The Anne Arundel County Muslim Council called on the nation's leaders to unify the country.

"There is no place in our nation for senseless violence and hatred, We must remember, there is more that brings us together than divides us,” the council said in an emailed statement. “We appeal to our political, religious and community leaders to stop the hate rhetoric.

"We send our deepest condolences to our Jewish brothers and sisters and pray for our nation's healing."

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
32°