Wichita synagogue asks for protection after Kansas City shootings

Published On: Apr 14 2014 05:45:16 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 14 2014 05:47:25 PM CDT

People in Wichita's Jewish community speak out after three people are killed in what's now being called a hate crime in Overland Park.

Rabbi Nissim Wernick, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, called the shooting a horrifying experience.

"And yet we're confronted at this time with people who are still slaves to prejudice, slaves to hatred," Nissim said.

The shooting comes just before the start of Passover and local groups have heightened security in reaction.

Wernick said while the Hebrew congregation prefers to have a positive outlook on life, there are times when they must consider safety first, even during a holy festival that celebrates freedom.

"We weren't planning on having any extra security but, of course, because this has happened we have contacted the police department and they will have police on the grounds to make sure nothing heinous occurs at this time," Wernick said.

He and his wife spent Monday busy preparing for Seder, the feast that begins the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover. But, along with the decorations and food preparations, are thoughts of Kansas City.

"I first heard about it when my wife called me and told me she had seen something on the television," Wernick said.

Police say a man with a history of anti-semitic behavior killed a grandfather and his grandson outside a Jewish community center and a woman at a Jewish senior living home on Sunday.

"So, we're mourning, but at the same time looking forward to a better future," said Wernick about the community's frame of mind going into the Passover celebrations.

The congregation is trying to maintain a positive outlook for the annual celebration while making sure they stay safe.

"When things like this happen, you have to face up to reality and at that moment, you know, protect yourself," said the rabbi.

While police are on the lookout for potential dangers during the Passover celebrations, members will be trying to share the joy of the season despite Sunday's losses.

"According to Jewish practice one is not allowed to mourn at this period of time," Wernick said. "So we can't even have a memorial service in the synagogue. And, if we do, it will be after the holiday."

Wernick said the holiday ban on mourning isn't just because Passover celebrates a joyous time in Jewish history, but also because it's supposed to be a reminder of the Jewish belief in putting the good of the community before personal feelings.

Factfinder 12 looked into recent anti-semitic incidents in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League says the number of anti-semitic incidents were down 19% last year. There were a total of 751 incidents in 2013, compared to 927 in 2012. But, while the overall number was down, the ADL says more of the incidents that did happen were violent. There were 31 violent anti-semitic assaults in 2013 compared to just 17 the year before.