CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL SYNAGOGUE IN CHARLOTTESVILLE
I don't understand how two descriptions of the same situation could be so different but here it is from both sides plus the national publication that prompted my concern. First from Newsweek.......
How the story was reported nationally and around the world on Newsweek:
Statement attributed to Rabbi Tom Gutherz in The Daily Progress, dated August 26:
.....Jones (Charlottesville City Manager) then provided a response made by Gutherz on Aug. 17, saying he and Zimmerman were “now confident that the steps they (the city planners) took were carefully considered to protect us and were effective.”
“We note that we had also met with and spoken to the department prior to the rallies as part of our preparation,” reads Gutherz’s response. “We look forward to continuing to work with them to guarantee the security of our community and thank them for their service.”
At 12:44 PM on Wednesday, August 9, I received an email from a woman who was concerned for the safety of her mother and aunt who were planning to attend a service at the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue on E. Jefferson St. on Saturday, August 12 from 9AM to 11AM. She had tried to talk her mother and aunt out of attending out of concern for the Alt Right rally scheduled to begin at noon but was unable to do so. I responded and told her that I would be in the vicinity videotaping the event and helping if I could and that if she felt comfortable giving me her mother's name I would go the the synagogue around 8:30 and wait until I could meet her mother in person and assure her of the city's efforts to keep everyone safe. She gave me her mother's name.
I approached the synagogue but was stopped on the corner where the BB&T bank was located by a Community Service Officer (CSO) standing next to his squad car which was pulled across the road to block the road. I could see the road was also blocked off beyond the synagogue by another squad car. I identified myself to the CSO and my purpose for being there. I knew him, he knew me and I was allowed access to the synagogue while others were being turned back. This was about 8:30 AM. The synagogue has a small entrance patio where an armed security guard was stationed and I approached him first, identified myself and why I was there. The security guard recognized me and assured me everything was under control. There were also 3 or 4 men one of whom identified himself as the 'president' of the synagogue and 2 women who were there to greet members coming to the service. They looked to see if the woman's mother was there (she hadn't yet arrived) and we traded small talk while we waited for her. It was an easy, informal exchange with no indication of concern. Just before 9 AM the mother arrived and I introduced myself. As mother's sometimes do she joked how her daughter was like that to worry about her mother. She showed no sign of worry or fear and said they would be fine. I wrote my cell number on my card, gave it to her, and told her I would be within 2 blocks of the synagogue for maybe 5 hours (the site of the rally was one block west) and if she had any concerns to call me and I would be with her within minutes.
I received no calls from her or the president or anybody connected to the synagogue from that point on.
During the aborted rally I could see the security people on the roof of the Charlottesville/Albemarle Historical Society building which looked down on the synagogue one block away as well as the park which I videotaped. This is on my video on www.CvilleCitizen.com.
The white supremacist rally was shut down about 11:30 AM and I circled back to the synagogue to see how the members were doing. I met 2 or 3 men on the southwest corner whom I knew and asked them if they were OK. In a very easy exchange they said they were fine, just 'keeping an eye on things'. There was no mention of any act that had occurred during the previous 4 hours that concerned them.
I continued to the park across from BB&T and noticed a knot of 6 heavily armed young men, maybe early 20's standing on the southwest corner of the park dressed as militia and a slightly older man, maybe 30 years old, being interviewed. I approached and asked if they were one of the 'neutral' groups I had heard about and they responded 'no'. I asked them why they would come into our city heavily armed and confront unarmed citizens and they said something about 'protecting capitalism and not wanting to lose their heritage'. I asked them again why they would come armed and would they shoot me. They mumbled something again about their heritage and looked uncomfortable at the question. I asked them if they would shoot the 'kids' in that park if they were ordered to and they didn't respond. At that point I felt them not to be a threat just stupid to be anywhere near what had just happened and I left. Later I figured these were the men 'across from the synagogue' that was reported across the country. They were not directly across from the synagogue but down the block to the east on the other side of the intersection.
From my observations, discussions, experience and what I knew of the extensive preparations and plans the city had made I was satisfied that the synagogue was adequately protected just as other faith communities and businesses were protected.