Sunday, December 29, 2019

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Monsey Synagogue Attack - Monsey Background

by Rob Akiva at Mystical Paths

We were horrified to hear of the stabbing attack at the Rabbi Rottenberg Shul (synagogue) in Forshay (Monsey), New York (State) last night.  And we understand the rush of news media and politicians to report and respond.

But there's bit quite a bit of misunderstanding and misreporting of what/where a Monsey is, what type of community it is, and even what a shul is.  Here's some background to help:

Monsey is a village in the State of New York.  It's in Rockland County, is officially part of the town of Ramapo (so Monsey doesn't have it's own police or mayor).

Somewhere around 30 years ago, ultra-orthodox Jewish families started moving out of New York City and buying homes in this suburban semi-rural area, creating a concentration of orthodox families.  Being the homes were on rural sized big-lots (1/4 acre?), there was some desire to increase the density and some homes or groups of homes were turned into row homes or attached homes.

This continuing trend also grew into neighbouring towns of Westley Hills and Spring Valley, and continue growing throughout the area.  This has caused a fair bit of political conflict as the neighbourhoods have changed the type of residents, the new residents have exercised their vote and taken positions in school boards and so forth, and changed funding for this such as public school programs (which the majority of the orthodox Jewish residents don't use).

The overall area has limited commercial space, and limited non-residential land use space.  Therefore, almost ALL the synagogues of the area are actually either converted homes, a converted garage or rooms in someone's home, or an add on extension to a home.  And there are probably 1-3 of these on every street in this suburban layout village

Neighborhood synagogues of this type usually have 15-50 worshippers.

The community is majority chassidic Jews.  Many work in New York City, which is a 1 1/2 hour commute and is heavily serviced by private buses, including the famous shul buses - meaning a bus with morning synagogue services on the bus on the way.

Due to the small size of the synagogues, and their attachment (and being provided by) personal homes, serious security spread across many small facilities may not be a reasonably viable option (though basic measures such as locking the door and checking through a peep hole probably are).  That said, I don't see any reason such an attacker could not have moved to the local shopping strip or kosher grocery store and attacked there.

May G-d offer a complete healing to the injured, and avenge the blood.

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