‘We’ve amped it up’: Winnipeg’s largest synagogue puts focus on security

The Congregation Shaarey Zedek on Wellington Crescent. Kevin Hirschfield/Global News

After 11 people were killed in an attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday, synagogues in Winnipeg are thinking of those who died and also making sure nothing to that extent will happen here.

“It’s absolutely horrific; my hearts go out to them,” said Ian Staniloff, executive director at the Congregation Shaarey Zedek, which is not only the largest and oldest synagogue in Winnipeg, but also in western Canada.

And because of its size and history, security at the Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Winnipeg has always been a major focus, particularly in recent years.

READ MORE: Police presence in Jewish communities across Canada to be increased following Pittsburgh shooting

“We have instituted a number of protocols to ensure we’re pretty vigilant about what goes on in our building,” said Staniloff. “And in recent years, we’ve amped it up a bit.”

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The synagogue received more than $10,000 from the federal government last year to help with security. They spent the majority of it on outdoor lighting to illuminate the parking lot and make it more visible for security cameras.

While he said there have been very little threats or vandalism, they’re always aware.

READ MORE: 11 dead, 6 injured in shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

“We recognize we’re one of the larger possible Jewish targets in community,” Staniloff said. “We’re careful, and proud of who we are. And we don’t wish to live in any fear.”

Staniloff said he knows the rabbi of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh personally and has reached out to him.

Philip Spevack of the Temple Shalom on Grant Avenue said vandals have hit his synagogue before, writing “Pure Hatred” on the building’s side. He anticipates a boost in security at their synagogue after the Pittsburgh attack.

Philip Spevack stands where graffiti was written on the side of the Temple Shalom.

“We bring in security as we deem appropriate,” he said. “Our president is discussing security in meetings, possibly with other synagogues.”

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Staniloff said they feel comfortable after their recent security additions and don’t anticipate any more upgrades, but will meet Monday to discuss what’s next.

WATCH: Toronto rabbi speaks out about Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Click to play video: '‘This is our people’: Toronto rabbi speaks out about Pittsburgh synagogue shooting' ‘This is our people’: Toronto rabbi speaks out about Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
‘This is our people’: Toronto rabbi speaks out about Pittsburgh synagogue shooting – Oct 28, 2018

Winnipeg Jewish community

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg said they don’t see a lot of hatred towards the Jewish community in the city, and they say the support is strong.

“The Jewish community has been here for 100 years, and they’re part of the community. They’re our friends, we’re their friends,” said Laurel Malkin, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. “We have no reason to believe that there’s any threat to the community, but we’re always vigilant.”

The Congregation Shaarey Zedek (561 Wellington Crescent) will host a vigil to pay tribute to the victims on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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