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Synagogues in New York and throughout the country were unaware of a plot to bomb two temples in New York City until it was foiled late Wednesday (May 20).
New York City police arrested four men who allegedly believed they were planting bombs near two synagogues in the Bronx. The men also had plans to shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in upstate Newburgh, N.Y.
The devices planted outside the Riverdale Temple and Riverdale Jewish Center were fake, obtained with the aid of an FBI informant involved in the investigation. After they were deposited, police moved in Wednesday and arrested James Cromite, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen.
Jewish institutions throughout the country have been threatened with terrorist acts before, and have been actively working to secure their facilities since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Jewish groups said they were not given advanced warning to place their facilities on higher alert Wednesday. Many sites receive warnings and alerts from the Secure Community Network (SCN), an organization created by a coalition of Jewish groups to provide security updates to synagogues and Jewish facilities. SCN coordinates with law enforcement to provide timely information to synagogues and Jewish facilities.
Paul Goldenberg, SCN’s national director, said the network was notified as the arrests were being made, and said alerting Jewish groups beforehand would have compromised the undercover investigation.
“Our job and our task was to make the community aware that they are in custody and that there’s no additional threat,” Goldenberg said.
Jewish sites were not on increased alert after the arrests, because the suspects were not linked to a terrorist organization. However, Jewish communal leaders said the case may prompt some facilities to review their security practices.
“Every congregation has to deal with the tension of maintaining an accessible community and still being careful about protecting the people and the institution,” said Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, chief program officer for the Union for Reform Judaism. “We encourage synagogues to regularly review their security plans to make sure they are up to date.”
Cromite photographed several synagogues and Jewish community centers in the Bronx last month, according to the complaint filed against the four men. Goldenberg said Jewish sites need to be particularly aware of hostile surveillance, unfamiliar people taking photographs or walking around the premises. It is a practice used both by terrorist organizations and individuals who may be planning attacks.
Matthew E. Berger
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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