Jewish Schools and Synagogues in UK Warned to Increase Security Measures

Authorities issue warning in the wake of the shootings in Denmark, France.

February 17, 2015, 8:00 PM

— -- Jewish schools and synagogues in the United Kingdom have been warned to increase security measures after the shootings in Denmark, despite a recent increase of patrols in areas with large Jewish communities since the Paris attacks.

"The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the U.K.,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the National Policing Lead for Counter Terrorism said in a statement this week.

“In addition to our existing security measures, we are in dialogue with Jewish community leaders about further actions that we will be taking, including more patrols in key areas,” Rowley said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the $3.5 million funding for security around schools would be maintained next year, and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is considering stepping up security measures around Jewish schools.

The number of anti-Semitic offenses reported has more than doubled in a year -- from 535 in 2013 to 1,168 in 2014, according the Community Security Trust, a charity that aims to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in the U.K.

However, several representatives of the Jewish community in London told ABC News that they felt safe and believe security measures are only one part of the issue.

"It is very clear that Jewish institutions are targets," Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, told ABC News. "Jewish institutions should be under surveillance 24/7."

Vivian Wireman, president of the U.K.'s Board of Deputies of British Jews, said such request "is not sensible.”

“Jews in the U.K. are living in a safe environment," Wireman said, "although there is a danger of copycat attacks, British Jews shouldn’t be too concerned.”

“We’ve taken measures ago," said Rabbi Barry Marcus of London’s Central Synagogue. "Why is security needed around religious sites in 2015? The root of the problem is not being confronted. We need preventive measures and we need strong leadership, which is not the case everywhere."

In France, where 300 Jewish graves were vandalized this week, increased security measures are also being discussed.

"It is important to protect sites of the Jewish community, but it is not enough," Sacha Ghozlan, leader of the French Jewish Student Union, told ABC News. "We want the government to put in place education measures. Currently, our values and the values of the French Republic are being flouted by Internet propaganda and anti-Semitism."

Marcus said he did not feel threatened in the U.K. in light of recent events in Europe, but felt saddened. “We need to be careful not to create any unnecessary panic. We are sad, not just for us, but because it is an attack on the values of democracy," he said.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his calls for European Jews to emigrate to Israel.

“We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe," he said in a statement. "I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: Israel is the home of every Jew.”

A group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders are scheduled on Thursday to walk in a one-day “pilgrimage” across London in a bid to demonstrate interfaith support.

ABC News' Hugo Leenhardt contributed to this report.

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