PEABODY – Chabad of Peabody was recently awarded a $50,000 Nonprofit Security Grant by the Department of Homeland Security. The synagogue, where windows were shattered by a BB gun last November, will use the money to install security cameras, shatterproof glass, and bollards to prevent cars from ramming into the building.
“I’m happy that we were granted what we were, and frankly, I think everyone should [apply],” said Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman. “Our need is a little greater because we’re really exposed … the Rebbe [Menachem Mendel Schneerson] said that America is a place of kindness, and this is an act of kindness that they’re making these funds available, and God forbid we should ever need them, but if we do, this will help.”
Sadly, that remains a possibility. Chabad of Peabody is one of several local Jewish institutions applying for security grants and working with local law enforcement to increase security after a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents. It is almost a year since a gunman killed 11 congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest attack against Jews in American history. In April, a gunman killed one and injured three more at a Chabad in Poway, Calif. About a month later, Rabbi Schusterman had pennies and slurs hurled at him from a car as he was walking home on Shabbat in Peabody with Rabbi Sruli Baron of Tobin Bridge Chabad in Everett.
After the BB gun attack in November, Rabbi Schusterman met with Peabody police officers to hear their recommendations for how to improve security. He then worked with a grant writer to complete the detailed application for the federal funding, which required a detailed security assessment of the Chabad’s needs. Schusterman hopes to reapply for the Nonprofit Security Grant and others like it in future years so the congregation can continue to make necessary security upgrades.
Schusterman, like many other rabbis, is grappling with how to stay safe while remaining welcoming. “Once you turn yourself into a Fort Knox, you’re safe, but you’re not very friendly,” he said. “The goal here is to mitigate the highest risk, but we want to keep the windows that bring in the beautiful light, and the energy … you can both be unafraid and proud of who you are, while using common sense and taking the necessary precautions.”