Security at Pittsburgh area synagogues expected to be strict this year

Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday and marks the first High Holiday since the Tree of Life synagogue shooting last October.(Katie Blackley / WESA)

Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday and marks the first High Holiday since the Tree of Life synagogue shooting last October.(Katie Blackley / WESA)

Rosh Hashanah begins Sunday evening and security for Pittsburgh area Jewish New Year celebrations are expected to be greater than previous years.

The holiday falls less than a month before the one-year mark of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, when 11 Jewish worshippers were killed, and turnout for services throughout Pittsburgh is expected to be higher compared to previous years. The same is anticipated for Yom Kippur, which takes place next Tuesday and is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

It’s not unusual for there to be additional security at area synagogues during the High Holidays, but Brad Orsini, the director of communal security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said efforts will be stricter and greater this year.

“We may hire additional armed security folks for our buildings and inside of our building. We will work with our law enforcement partners to make sure everybody’s safe and secure as possible,” said Orsini. “Every event that we’re going to have in the next month will be looked at individually, and we’ll have security planned for each one of those events.”

Rosh Hashana services area synagogues will be ticketed.

“Security is paramount,” said Stephen Cohen, President of New Light congregation, which is holding its services at Beth Shalom.

“They’ve had a ticketing policy for many years that has been not exactly followed,” Cohen said. “This year, there’s only one entrance to the building … and you must have a ticket to get in. Somebody will be in the lobby with a list to make sure that you are an appropriate person to come in. We have to be concerned.”

Orsini said he doesn’t want anyone to be nervous and encourages people to participate in High Holidays services.

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