DENVER (KDVR) — A standoff at a synagogue in Texas has reignited conversations on anti-Semitism and security at places of worship. Local and state leaders are responding with an upcoming virtual event calling for solidarity.

JEWISHcolorado, the Anti-Defamation League and Rocky Mountain Rabbis and Cantors will join Gov. Jared Polis, Attorney General Phil Weiser and others at a virtual event called “Responding to Antisemitism: An Interfaith Call to Action.” The groups are responding to antisemitism and attacks against all religions.

“The pervasiveness of violence against individuals that simply don’t look like some believe they should look, believe or speak, that is the challenge of our normal,” said Rabbi Jay Strear, the president and CEO of JEWISHcolorado.

The group has been on the frontlines in Colorado during the rapid rise of antisemitism, and their efforts include preparing places of worship for potential danger.

“We provide intelligence, we provide responsiveness to emerging events and we’ve got our ears in tune to what those rising threats are,” Strear said.

‘You need to have trained, armed protection’

Local synagogues have been adjusting their security protocols for years, especially since Colorado is no stranger to places of praise becoming centers of tragedy.

“The bad guys prey upon the unarmed, innocent, because they’re an easy target,” Jeanne Assam said. In 2007, she was a volunteer security member and an off-duty police officer at New Life Church in Colorado Springs when a gunman walked in and opened fire, killing four people before Assam shot and killed him.

She also said the sad truth is “you need to have trained, armed protection [at churches] to protect the innocent.” Assam — who some call a hero — said, “As a former Minneapolis police officer, I was always, and I still am to this day, always prepared, always armed for anything to happen at any time.”

Rabbi Strear said having a full-time guard can cost up to $125,000 a year, which can be a monumental burden.

Virtual solidarity event

The virtual solidarity event will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. and will stream on YouTube and on Facebook. Speakers at the event will include:

  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis
  • Attorney General Phil Weiser
  • Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen
  • Rep. Iman Jodeh
  • Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet
  • Rabbi Brian Field and Rabbi Emily Hyatt, president and president-elect of Rocky Mountain Rabbis and Cantors
  • Scott Levin, ADL
  • Rabbi Jay Strear, president and CEO of JEWISHcolorado