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Jewish leaders in San Diego and across the state respond to synagogue standoff in Texas

The hostage standoff over the weekend was a stark reminder of the deadly shooting in a Poway synagogue more than two years ago.

SAN DIEGO — Support for the Jewish hostages held in a Texas synagogue has been pouring in from around the country. The incident has also galvanized Jewish groups here in San Diego.

The hostage standoff over the weekend is a stark reminder of the deadly shooting in a Poway synagogue more than two years ago. Now Jewish leaders in San Diego and across the state are speaking out and taking action.

“When something like this happens, it feels like it happens to all of us,” said Heidi Gantwerk, President of Jewish Federation of San Diego County.  

On Saturday four people were held hostage during a nearly 11-hour standoff. The gunman was killed by the FBI and the hostages escaped unharmed. In the aftermath, 1,500 Jewish leaders from around the country were on a call Tuesday with US Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking what he plans to do to beef up security.

“I think creating the resources to support that, creating the training so that law enforcement understands, and that government understands the risks of antisemitism and anti-semitic violence,” Gantwerk said.  

Gantwerk said right now, the Jewish community in San Diego is ramping up its efforts to get more funding for active shooter training and educating the community on how to stay safe.

“We have armed guards at most of our synagogues now. We have armed guards at our preschools. We have fortresses that we have to build around Jewish institutions and I want to know where the outrage is about that because we shouldn’t have to live like that in this society,” Gantwerk said. 

Gantwerk said 58% of all hate crimes were against Jews last year. The Nonprofit Security Grant Program also provides places of worship money to improve security measures. CA Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel from District 45, said $50 million in security grant funding was allocated last year but more money is needed.

“The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services releases an application, rather. Nonprofits across the state can apply. Then experts from law enforcement actually look at all the applications and they decide which are the nonprofits facing the greatest threat,” said Gabriel. 

San Diego County’s Jewish Federation said it recently hired grant writers to apply for the security funding. In the meantime, they’ll remain vigilant about staying safe.

WATCH RELATED: Lawmakers seek program extension paying for security at California houses of worship