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Reaction's Muted Over Plot to Attack Fort Dix

May 17, 2007 By:
Ryan Teitman, JE Feature
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The home of two of the suspects in the alleged plot is located on Mimosa Drive in Cherry Hill, N.J. RNS Photo/Reuters
On May 7, six foreign-born Muslims were arrested for allegedly plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Four of the men were from Cherry Hill, N.J., just miles from the military base. At Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, the reaction by the Jewish community was one of concern, but not of fear, and seemed to be echoed by other synagogue members in the area.

Four of the men arrested had prayed at the Al Aqsa Islamic Center in Philadelphia, which is known for its interfaith work in the city. The mosque has faced national media attention since the arrests, but no link has been found between the men's alleged actions and the house of worship.

"People are looking at this as the action of individuals," said Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen of Temple Emanuel, and not the work of any sort of organized group.

"People are concerned obviously, and a little shocked" since Fort Dix is only a short distance from the synagogue, said Cohen. "The kids seemed a little bit anxious about it," she added.

There hasn't been a formal response by the synagogue, she added, and what happened won't change the congregation's normal routines. "We keep doing what we're doing," said Cohen, both in their interfaith work and in day-to-day activities.

Officials at Congregation Beth El and Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill declined to comment about the case.

Across the river in Philadelphia, Rabbi Leonard D. Gordon of the Germantown Jewish Centre hopes to continue his work of solidifying interfaith relationships in the community.

"Crisis response outside the context of relationships tends to be weak and only leads to miscommunication," he said.

"The incident reminds us of the pressing need to have this dialogue going on all the time."

And he noted that the interfaith connections his congregation has built are meant to stand the test of time.

"In our community, what we are really aiming for is organic connections with other religious leaders that survive specific incidents."

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