“Be vigilant but tomorrow be extra vigilant.” Minnesota’s Jewish community says ‘prepare not scare’ after Hamas declares a ‘day of rage’

Increasing security in Jewish spaces as tensions rise

Increasing security in Jewish spaces as tensions rise

At Heilicher Jewish Day School in St. Louis Park, American and Israeli flags are flying together at half-staff, following the Hamas attacks into Israel.

“So, it’s like be vigilant but tomorrow be extra vigilant,” declares Dan Ahlstrom, the Head of School. “We just on a day-to-day basis have a much higher elevation with regards to our security.”

He says 170 students are enrolled at Heilicher, from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Ahlstrom notes he and the school’s security partners have been watching closely for any signs of trouble on Friday — what Hamas called a ‘day of rage.’

“People can say crazy stuff and if the effect changes in the day-to-day life of our community, it’s a win for them,” he explains. “We have a vested interest to help our kids and help our families lead normal lives, to be assured that, in that sense.”

Authorities say there have been no specific, credible threats in Minnesota or across the country.

But in cities like Miami, Washington, DC, and New York, there have been protests on both sides.

The NYPD has canceled officers’ vacations, telling them to prepare for twelve-hour shifts.

Extra security has been set up at synagogues across New York.

“I have directed the NYPD to move additional resources to places of worship and schools, to ensure they are safe,” Mayor Eric Adams told reporters.

For its part — the Hielicher School has a partnership with St. Louis Park Police to patrol the campus.

Ahlstrom says there is video surveillance, along with secured doors that use keycards for entry.

“For us, that huge, to have that community partnership and have local police around and visible. That helps us feel more secure,” Ahlstrom says. “Community partnerships, the controlled access, the internal security patrol. We have a lot of our own surveillance.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas is also watching events in Israel and Gaza closely.

“People are afraid and that’s understandable given the historical context,” says Sami Rahamim, the JCRC’s Director of Communications and Community Affairs. “The goal of terrorism is to cause fear and to disrupt our normal life routine.”

Rahamim says the JCRC coordinates with law enforcement and its security partners to detect any potential viable threats— and communicate that information to the community.

The council also has a weekly bulletin it sends out, that includes security training opportunities and a threat analysis update.

Rahamim says the group has two security professionals, with decades of law enforcement experience, who are available as consultants.  

“We’re in regular communication, holding briefings and sending information as we receive it,” he says. “It’s important for institutions of all types to have security measures in place where there’s an awareness of who’s coming inside your building, what’s their behavior. Is there anything off?”

Rahamim and Ahlstrom both say it’s important for people to be able to attend public gatherings like one held at Beth El Synagogue earlier this week, after the Hamas attacks.

And — for kids and adults to feel a sense of safety.

“As a country, we’re used to this, now going back to 9/11. When you see something, say something,” Rahamim notes. “That’s especially true of the Jewish Community, which sees is disproportionate level of hate crimes. At this point, it’s important to carry on and continue living our lives.” “Our families are safe here,” Ahlstrom adds. “They feel safe here and our job is to help them normalize their lives to the degree they can. I know there are people around them to care about them that are paying attention.”