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U.S. States Move to Secure Jewish Institutions Amid Raging Middle East Violence

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Monday the second largest U.S. state is allocating 4 million U.S. dollars to secure 31 Jewish schools, synagogues and other institutions amid raging Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Working with local partners across Texas, we are actively increasing security at Jewish and Israel-related locations such as synagogues and schools,” Abbott said in a statement.

The governor’s office said Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to “work with local partners and federal intelligence agencies on heightened public safety measures, with an intensified focus by the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Texas Fusion Center to elevate awareness about potential threats by Hamas or Hezbollah organizations against the Jewish community in Texas.”

Meanwhile, the governor issued an executive order directing all state agencies to refrain from purchasing goods produced in or exported from the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced enhanced security at synagogues and “other potential venues” in the fourth largest U.S. city.

From this week, police in New Orleans, the largest city in U.S. southern coastal state of Louisiana, have deployed officers and added patrols to synagogues, Jewish communities and other Jewish institutions.

“The New Orleans Police Department is aware of the situation in the Middle East,” said New Orleans police Superintendent Anne E. Kirkpatrick in a statement on Sunday.

The city’s Jewish community has about 12,000 members, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. A spokesperson for the New Orleans Police Department told local media that the decision was precautionary.

From New York to California and Florida, multiple U.S. states are enhancing security to Jewish mosques and synagogues following the attacks by militants from Gaza on Israel on Saturday, according to local media reports.

Eric Adams, mayor of New York City which hosts the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel, said on Monday he had directed the police “to deploy additional resources to Jewish communities and houses of worship citywide to ensure that our communities have the resources they need to make sure everyone feels safe.”

As a precaution, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has also “directed the New York State Police to work with local law enforcement to ensure Jewish community spaces are safe.”

In California’s Los Angeles area, which has the second-largest Jewish population outside Israel, police have also deployed extra patrols in Jewish and Muslim communities from this week.

A rabbi in Salt Lake City, Utah, said he was forced to stop services on Sunday and evacuate the synagogue after the congregation received a bomb threat. Salt Lake City police officers searched three local Jewish institutions but did not find anything suspicious, CNN reported.

Jewish Insider reported on Monday that holiday festivities will continue as usual but that they are increasing security measures as hate crimes targeting diaspora Jews tend to spike when there is conflict in Israel.

According to the Jewish Insider report, the Community Security Service (CSS), an organization that has trained more than 3,000 volunteers around the United States to protect synagogues and other Jewish institutions, has sent detailed guidance for the coming days and weeks as they are anticipating a heightened threat level on American Jews.

“In cities across the country, police departments have stepped up security around centers of Jewish life, and the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal law enforcement partners are closely monitoring for any domestic threats in connection with the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement on Monday.

The Israeli government formally declared war and greenlighted “significant military steps” to retaliate against Hamas for its surprise attack, as the military labored into Monday to crush fighters still in southern towns and intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

More than 1,000 people have been killed, with thousands wounded on both sides, according to media reports.