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Attacks in France Concern Local Jewish Community

By Edwin Folven, 3/22/2012

Police Increase Patrols and Urge Vigilance

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Local leaders in the Jewish community have denounced the recent murders of seven people in southern France, including a rabbi and three Jewish school children who were shot to death on Monday at a school in Toulouse.

The Los Angeles Police Department also implemented additional patrols around Jewish schools, temples and other sensitive locations in Los Angeles. The suspect, Mohammed Merah, 24, was identified by French authorities as having ties to a terrorist group with connections to Al-Qaeda. He reportedly murdered the rabbi and schoolchildren in response to the deaths of Palestinian children, and murdered three soldiers last week in response to French military operations in Afghanistan. Merah engaged French authorities in a standoff on Wednesday, and had reportedly injured two additional officers.

Capt. Steve Sambar, head of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, which is part of the Counterterrorism and Special Operation Bureau, said the command staff at each of the department’s divisions was briefed about the situation in France on Monday, and that additional patrols had been deployed to sensitive locations. Sambar said there were no credible threats to any targets in Los Angeles or the United States, but said the department always remains vigilant in regards to terrorist threats.

“Without getting into specifics on how we handle these types of things, anytime we hear anything like this, we respond by making sure our schools and organizations are protected,” Sambar said. “All geographic area commanding officers were made aware of what is happening, and we sent out bulletins and briefings to all of our terrorism liaison officers. Most importantly, we are reaching out to the public to be our eyes and ears within the community, and if they see something, to notify us immediately.”

The Jewish Federation issued a statement about the attacks, and spokesperson Mitch Hammerman said there are always measures being taken to protect against similar attacks occurring in Los Angeles, although he could not go into specifics.

“We are deeply saddened by the senseless tragedy that took the lives of four people outside the Ozar Hatorah school in Tolouse, France,” the Jewish Federation statement read. “Through our Federation’s on-the-ground partners in France, we are reaching out to the families, assessing needs of the community, and providing psychologists and other assistance to help the students and teachers of the school cope with this horrific event. On behalf of our community, we mourn the loss of innocent lives and stand in solidarity with our Jewish family around the world in condemning acts of hatred.”

Miriam Prum Hess, director of the center for excellence in day school education for the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles, said an e-mail was sent to administrators at all 38 Jewish day schools under the organization’s jurisdiction, reminding them about remaining vigilant, and that staff members were encouraged to review security plans.

“As horrific as it is, it is a good time to renew all school procedures and be on alert,” Prum Hess said. “Fortunately, we are always on a heightened security alert at all Jewish day schools. It is an unfortunate and bone-chilling reminder that that we constantly need to review all security.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, said the attacks in France represent an unfortunate reality that terrorists can attack anywhere.

“When this kind of attack happens, every Jewish parent, every Jewish household reacts with a deep sense of pain and a deep sense of outrage,” Cooper said. “This is a constant issue. It is part of our reality. This is the nature of a war we all hope and pray will all go away, but unfortunately, with the world we live in today, it’s all wishful thinking, and we have to remain on guard.”

 

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