Increased security in place at Minnesota synagogues

Extra security is in place at synagogues and congregations in Minnesota in the wake of Saturday's deadly attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

"People want to know that they can pray in a secure environment in the Twin Cities," said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. "They can be assured that law enforcement at all levels has been very supportive and very proactive in making sure that communities are safe."

Hunegs said there will be extra police patrols at synagogues — as did Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

"Today is a tragic reminder that there are individuals who will commit terrible crimes against their fellow Americans," Stanek said in a news release. "In an effort to help thwart any would-be copycat attacks in Hennepin County, I have directed our deputies to conduct increased patrols to area synagogues, and work with their staff to learn of any safety and security concerns."

Stanek said Saturday that there were no known threats to local synagogues.

Hunegs said security has been an ongoing discussion in Jewish communities in Minnesota. He told MPR News on Saturday afternoon that just three weeks ago the council hired a retired longtime law enforcement officer as its first full-time director of community security.

"It's always a balancing act," he said. "We want all of our synagogues, schools, places of worship, agencies to be secure. And simultaneously we want them to be warm and welcoming. So we've got to always take care along those lines."

Hunegs says the council has important relationships with local law enforcement agencies.

Hunegs that while the attack happened hundreds of miles from Minnesota, it hits close to home in the state's Jewish community.

"Someone called me to say, 'I grew up in that synagogue,' 'I grew up in that neighborhood,' 'I went to college with people from Pittsburgh,' " he said. "The Jewish world is about one-half degree of separation generally — particularly in North America — one person from another. And it's said that all Jews are responsible for one another — so it hits home, very keenly.

"Our hearts, our prayers and our thoughts are with the people of Pittsburgh — both the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and the greater Pittsburgh community."