Politico Feature Details Dutch Synagogue Run Like Fortress Due to Fear of Antisemitic Violence
In what may be paradigmatic of Jewish life in Europe today, a synagogue in Holland essentially runs itself as a fortress, with no public access and all services undertaken by invitation only, Politico reported on Thursday.
The Politico feature said that the synagogue in Groningen, Holland, has an emergency plan if there is an attack, police protection during services, and only opens its doors to worshipers already known by the community or invited by members. At this year’s Rosh Hashanah service, there were not enough attendees to form a minyan.
One member, Alec Farber, was quoted as saying “it was actively difficult” to find the synagogue, and compared it to his synagogue in the United States, which posts services on its website.
The security measures were undertaken after a rise in antisemitic attacks in Europe over the past few decades, but especially after an assault earlier this year on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur. A white supremacist gunman attempted to break into the synagogue but was prevented by a heavy door. He subsequently opened fire in the street nearby and killed two people.
David Gurov, who knows someone who was trapped in the Halle synagogue during the attack, was quoted as saying, “The layer that was holding back antisemitism from growing has been breached.”
The Jewish community of Groningen was essentially wiped out in the Holocaust and its synagogue was nearly demolished in the 1970s. As antisemitism rises again, some congregants feel the same complacency and denial are work as in the past.
“I’m concerned about antisemitism becoming normalized, and slipping into the mainstream,” Tom Burghard was quoted as saying.
“If it’s not a physical attack, people don’t take it seriously,” he observed. “They don’t understand this is how it starts.”
Some synagogue members, however, choose defiance rather than fear.
“They say after a massacre it takes 200 years for people not to be afraid anymore,” Judith Kop was quoted as saying. “I’m not going to be around for 200 years. I decided not to be afraid.”