FBI, DHS warn faith-based communities ‘will likely continue’ to be targets of violence

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the FBI continues to investigate a 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue, the bureau has a warning for communities of warship.

The gunman who took four people hostage in a standoff that ended in the man’s death was checked against law enforcement databases before entering the U.S., but raised no red flags, the White House said Tuesday.

Now, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security say faith-based communities will likely continue to be targets of violence.

As the FBI continues to investigate a 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue, the bureau has a warning for communities of warship.

News4JAX spoke the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida. CEO Mariam Shpeen Feist said she recently moved to Jacksonville from Texas.

She said the recent hostage standoff at a synagogue there is the latest cruel reminder of the hate that exists.

“Every time there’s an incident, I don’t know why I’m still stunned, in disbelief this is happening, happening on American soil -- in a place of worship,” Shpeen Feist said. “It’s painful.”

Authorities pointed out that online forums linked to domestic violent extremists that have referenced Jewish targets tied to conspiracy theories about COVID-19, the outcome of the 2020 election and the resettlement of Afghans to the U.S.

Shpeen Feist says it’s a sad reality, but that members of her community know the threat against Jewish people is ever-present and that they need to be prepared.

“There’s training on stop the bleed, that if there is an active shooter and you’re in and cannot get out or rescue can’t come in, how do you respond,” Shpeen Feist said.

The Jewish Federation of North America partners with the federal government to help secure Jewish organizations around the nation by helping members prepare for the worst, with the help of the secure community network.

Shpeen Feist says the awareness training applies to anyone in the world today.

“You could be in a Walmart and there could be an active shooter, so the training is not just if you’re in a Jewish institution” she said. “It’s being aware of your surroundings, because in today’s day and age we’re hearing about it way too often.”


About the Author:

At WJXT for a quarter of a century, Mary Baer anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news weekdays.