The possibility of anti-Israel protestors storming into synagogues nationwide this Shabbat to protest the Gaza war has been deemed "plausible" by the Jewish Community Relations Council, which sent out a security alert to area institutions on Tuesday.
But police investigating a flurry of text messages and e-mails about a Muslim cab driver who supposedly warned a passenger to stay out of Manhattan on Wednesday have not been able to validate the claim.
"The NYPD has investigated this threat thoroughly," reads the alert from JCRC’s Commission on Jewish Security. "It seems that ‘everyone’ knows the person who received the information. However, detectives have questioned a number of individuals who were identified by others as the person who supposedly received the threat … Every one of those people admits to learning of the threat from a ‘friend of a friend.’"
The message made its way onto the listservs of many Orthodox communities, known as shul lists. Typically, it says that a woman who gave her cab driver a generous tip was rewarded by the grateful cab driver with advice to stay out of Manhattan Wednesday. The myth-debunking Web site snopes.com reported this week that such rumors have been routinely circulating since 9/11.
David Pollock, associate executive director of the JCRC, said the disruption threat was deemed plausible because it was traced directly to a source, which he declined to identify because he did not want to give the group publicity.
"It would be feasible for small groups of people to disrupt services, and so we are urging precautions," said Pollock.
The alert called on synagogues to contact local police to apprise them of services schedules, post greeters at the doors and consult with halachic authorities on what type of action is acceptable on the Sabbath. Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, is quoted in the alert as saying that calling police in such situations is permitted "since these disruptions have the potential of turning violent."
The alert also reminds congregations that they are legally permitted to deny anyone access to their buildings and urges minimal confrontation, but decisive action in vetting unknown people seeking entrance.
The memo urged anyone with first-hand information about the terror "warning" to call the police hotline 888-NYC-SAFE.
While stressing that there is no known, credible threat regarding New York or the Jewish community, the JCRC memo stressed that violence in the Middle East has in the past led to attacks here, such as the 1994 Brooklyn Bridge shooting that left one Lubavitch teen dead and three wounded.
The JCRC urged that proper precautions should be taken at all times and any suspicious activity be reported to authorities.