Pittsburgh Jewish Federation warns community to be ‘vigilant’

The warning followed recent attacks against Jews in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh warned the community to “be vigilant” in the wake of recent attacks against Orthodox Jews in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

The federation is advising residents to be “situationally aware” and “immediately report any incidents to 911 and then to the federation.”

“We have seen over the past month or so a rise in anti-Semitism that was largely spurred by the conflict between Israel and Hamas,” said Shawn Brokos, the federation’s director of Jewish community security.

“We have seen it across the nation, we’ve seen it globally, and up until two weeks ago we hadn’t seen it impact us in Pittsburgh,” she said.

On June 13, a man walking home from services at Shaare Torah Congregation in Squirrel Hill was physically assaulted by a “well-built black male,” according to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

After being thrown to the ground and sustaining broken bones, the man was hospitalized and had to undergo hip-replacement surgery.

A week earlier, on June 6, three people were walking home from another synagogue in Squirrel Hill when they were verbally assaulted by a “6-foot tall, 220-pound black male, carrying a large walking stick,” the Chronicle reported.

According to Brokos, the man shouted “clearly anti-Semitic and hateful” words at the victims.

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“Instead of people living in fear, I encourage them to go about their daily business but just be aware of their surroundings and rely on one another for safety and security,” Brokos told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“If we stop going to service, or walking to synagogue or amending our daily routines, then fear has won, and we can’t let that happen to us here in Pittsburgh,” she said.

Brokos, who worked as an FBI agent for 24 years before joining the Jewish Federation, is not Jewish but grew up in Philadelphia, where she had close Jewish friends and developed “such an appreciation of the Jewish faith.”

As an FBI agent, she was a first responder to the October 2018 attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, where a gunman killed 11 worshippers and injured several others.