‘You Can’t Live In Fear’

‘You Can’t Live In Fear’

Her two small children in tow, a 30-ish mother walked out of the Central Queens Y and down the front stairs this week.
A few steps away on 108th Street, her children, who had spent the morning at the Forest Hills Y’s nursery program, announced that they were hungry. Mom gave them a few dollar bills to buy snacks from a machine in the Y front lobby.
The kids raced back up the stairs; their mother trailed behind, watching them the whole way.
“I never let them out of my sight — always,” she declared.
Her statement, she said, was even more relevant in the week after the anti-Semitic shootings at a Jewish community center near Los Angeles.
This mother, like the other Y members — from teens to retirees — who passed her on the way into the building as she waited for her children to return, still come to the Y, in the heart of Forest Hills, as before.
But she was hesitant momentarily about bringing her son and daughter to an identifiably Jewish site — as is the North Valley Jewish Center in Granada Hills, Calif., where last week’s attack took place.
“Am I nervous? Of course,” she said.
“Do I think there’s more danger now? Of course.”
She and her husband discussed the subject “a little bit” before deciding to enroll the kids in the Y’s gym and swim program. The family is active in the Jewish community. “For us to avoid Jewish things is very difficult.”
“I don’t think it keeps people away,” she said, referring to the threat posed by anti-Semitic groups.
The Y, according to many members who regularly take part in programs there, was as crowded as usual in the days following the California shooting. They said they didn’t notice any particular apprehension inside. Many who spoke to The Jewish Week, like the Forest Hills mother, asked that their names not be used.
“No sense giving them targets,” she said, referring to the sort of individuals who carried out the Granada Hills shooting and subsequent attacks on Jewish sites in California and Long Island in the past week.
A sign on the Y’s front door announces, “Please show your ID card. No one will be admitted without ID.” A Y employee at the front desk checks the identification of those entering the premises.
“The security here is getting tighter,” said another young mother, who had just enrolled her daughter in a nursery program.
Y spokesmen declined to discuss what security measures it has taken in the wake of the latest anti-Semitic attacks in the United States.
Many Y’s and Jewish community centers around the country have tightened security in the past week, said Sol Greenfield, associate executive vice president of the JCC Association of North America.
“They have all conducted security reviews and taken steps” to implement them. “Some of them may be immediate. Some of them may be long term,” he said.
And most still have packed buildings for summer programs, Greenfield said.
“They’re not staying away. We’ve had no reports of dropouts” in attendance, he said. “The sense we’re getting around the country is it’s business basically as usual in terms of [numbers of] people.”
Down the street from the Y, a score of youngsters were running around the front yard of Mesivta Ohr Torah. They are enrolled in Machne Yisrael Day Camp, a summer program for children from the former Soviet Union run at the Bukharan synagogue.
The camp requested extra police patrols during camping hours, said Rebbetzin Channah Hecht, the camp director.
“I don’t sense any fear in the children,” she said. “They know what’s going on.
“We told the kids,” many of whose families have televisions, what happened in California, Hecht said. “We got all the kids in the dining room and told them we have good security and they shouldn’t worry.”
Spokespeople for Jewish Y’s in metropolitan New York said the California shootings have had no noticeable effect on the number of participants in their activities.
“There has been no impact at all,” said Diane Rubin, executive director of the Riverdale Y. “Programs are going on as usual.”
“We’ve had some phone calls, mostly from camper parents,” who continue to send their children, said Carol Agronin, assistant executive director of the Mid-Westchester Y in Scarsdale. “They’ve seen increased security” at the Y.
“Business has been as usual,” said Joyce Glick, acting executive director of the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview, L.I. “Camps have gone on, children have come.”
The local Y’s have instituted new security measures.
“You can’t live your life in fear,” said Nettie Tilevitz, a Forest Hills resident who comes to the Central Queens Y for swimming a few times a week with her husband, David.
The couple came last Friday, a few days after the Granada Hills shooting. “It was mobbed” in the pool,” Tilevitz said.
Rochelle Kampf brought her daughter to the Y’s nursery program the day after the shootings.
“I didn’t feel threatened — honestly, I didn’t,” she said, wheeling her daughter’s carriage outside the Y, accompanied by a group of young mothers with small children.
“Maybe it’s the neighborhood,” Kampf said. Forest Hills has a large Jewish population, with many Jewish institutions.
“I only felt nervous when they started checking our ID cards,” said another young mother whose daughter also is in the Y nursery school. “That’s when it became a reality to me.”
Most of the parents said they tried to keep their children away from TV news reports of the California shootings, and explained the event in terms that youngsters could understand.
“They know that something bad happened in one Jewish center in Los Angeles,” said the mother with the two kids in the nursery program. “We talked about it. We made it very clear that nothing will happen to them in a place we take them.
“Even,” she added this week under her breath, “if we can’t guarantee that.”

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