In Attleboro, a synagogue targeted with an emailed bomb threat Saturday was undeterred in practicing their faith as a neighboring Christian church opened its doors for the temple’s members.
Congregation Agudas Achim was among several synagogues across the country that received the email threat, said Rabbi Talya Weisbard Shalem, and so instead of starting scheduled services inside their synagogue Saturday morning, a State Police bomb squad came and searched the building and its grounds for any sign of explosives, though they found nothing.
During the police activity, the Evangelical Covenant Church welcomed its Jewish neighbors inside, where more than 60 people were able to begin services, Shalem said in a phone interview.
“I think there’s a really beautiful message of interfaith harmony,” she said.
Massachusetts State Police reported that synagogues in Rhode Island, along with one in Attleboro — identified as Agudas Achim by Shalem — were the targets of emailed bomb threats Saturday.
Members of the State Police bomb squad responded to the Attleboro synagogue about 9:40 a.m. at the request of local police, according to David Procopio, a State Police spokesperson.
The bomb squad spent nearly two hours conducting a sweep of the building and grounds, but found no “items of concern,” Procopio said in a statement.
The threat is being investigated by Attleboro police, Procopio said.
State Police were not aware of any other such threats in Massachusetts, he said, but their Fusion Center “is aware that several Jewish houses of worship in Rhode Island also received emailed threats today,” Procopio said.
Shalem said the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island alerted them around 8:30 a.m., and when synagogue members checked its email, they found the message, which apparently had been sent from outside the US.
As people began arriving at the synagogue for Saturday services, including the family of a girl who was planning to celebrate her bat mitzvah, they went across the street to the nearby Evangelical Covenant Church, she said.
Once police completed their search, the synagogue members returned to their building, where they completed the morning’s services, including the bat mitzvah, she said.
Being able to hold the bat mitzvah made it all the more important, Shalem said: The girl’s family planned it, and the teen “put a lot of energy into learning how to lead prayers of the service and how to chant from the Torah. And we wanted her to have her day.”
The weekly prayers at the synagogue “is a touchstone for people,” Shalem said. “Of course, the backdrop is that Jews need to come together in community and pray this week in light of the war in Israel.
“We really needed that routine, so we did it,” Shalem said. “It’s beautiful, it’s meaningful.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.