WILLIAMSBURG – Video footage that emerged this morning from Williamsburg was more than a little shocking, both in the way that an unnamed suspect spent nearly a full minute checking out dozens of talleisim before attempting to steal one, and also witnessing how the shul in question was completely open to the general public.Join our WhatsApp group
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Surveillance footage obtained from Khal Yetev Lev D’Satmar on Clymber Street show an unnamed man entering the shul shortly before 8:30 on the morning of November 26th.
Dressed in a black sweatshirt, black pants and white sneakers with purple trim, the bare-headed man with the closely cropped certainly should have caught the attention of those lingering in the foyer area of the unlocked shul.
Video shows the man surveying the cubbies, removing a tallis bag and holding it in his hands, as he paced back in forth for several seconds. Even as he seemingly weighed the bag in his hands (possibly trying to discreetly verify its contents?) members continued exiting through the shul’s unlocked doors for 30 seconds, with few even giving him a second glance.
It was only after a white-bearded shul member confronted the outsider that things began to escalate. A scuffle ensued and as the man fled the scene, multiple shul members chased after him.
According to Williamsburg News, the NYPD arrested the man with Shomrim’s assistance a short distance away at Driggs Avenue South and South 9th Street for stealing religious items.
Video of the arrest shows two officers struggling to restrain the suspect, with one pulling out a Taser gun, and while the footage has no audio, the officer can clearly be seen admonishing the suspect.
A Shomrim member who had been holding the stolen tallis bag stepping in to assist, as did another NYPD officer, and the suspect, described by sources as 45 years old, was finally placed in handcuffs.
While of course every Jew should be welcome in every synagogue no matter how they are dressed, in this day and age, having even a simple combination lock on a door should be standard practice at every shul.
Yes, a determined individual might be able to figure out the combination, even if written in Hebrew, but start with the small steps to keep our shuls safe, even as we ponder larger and more secure solutions.
Today it was a simple tallis thief entering a shul.
Tomorrow it could be someone wielding a knife or a gun.
Hasn’t the time come for us to stop burying our heads in the sand and start taking shul security seriously?