Jewish Americans are remaining vigilant and steadfast in their practices of worship following a call for global protests against Israel from the former leader of Hamas.
This week, Khaled Meshaal, the former chief of Hamas’ political bureau for more than 20 years, called for Muslims across the world to head to squares and streets Friday and protest in support of Palestinians and for neighboring countries to join the battle against Israel.
Several synagogues and Jewish religious schools from different corners of America have beefed up security measures in the wake of Meshaal’s rallying cry.
And multiple American Jews told Fox News Digital the call for protests hasn’t stopped them from practicing their faith.
Rabbi Kussi Lipskier, who helped establish Chabad to serve the Jewish community at the University of Alabama and the greater Tuscaloosa, Alabama, area, said he took his children to school Friday as he would normally.
“I’m just picking up my kid from his preschool, and half the kids weren’t there today,” he said. “I know that’s true across different day schools where parents are really afraid. I mean, I did take my kid [to school] because, as terrifying as it sounds, we will not cower.”
Lipskier said Hamas terrorists are committing the “worst atrocities” and “they’re videoing it because they’re trying to break our brains and try to break our hearts.”
But Lipskier won’t be deterred, saying, “We can’t let terrorists win.”
“They want us to disappear, they want us to cower in fear. It’s horrifying, but we’re gonna feel that, and we’re going to continue living loudly and proudly, especially as Jews,” he said.
Rabbi Yoni Fein, who serves as the head of a southern Jewish school, said Jewish Americans are continuously working to “increase our vigilance, increase our security measures in our schools and our synagogues in the community.”
“Us Jews living in America have always faced, unfortunately, the fear of persecution,” Fein said. “It’s been, unfortunately, for thousands of years we’ve had this. I think the calls that were made this week have definitely heightened that anxiety. You know, that’s the impact, the psychological impact of terror they want to place on people as far away as possible – that we have a fear of going about our way of life.
“We’re not gonna let that happen,” he added. Fein also expressed appreciation for law enforcement officials working to protect Jewish Americans amid Israel’s war with Hamas.
On Friday New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that she had ordered an increase in the presence of law enforcement for the state’s public colleges and universities. “While there is no credible threat to New York at this time, we are increasing law enforcement presence to ensure Jewish New Yorkers can safely gather and observe Shabbat services,” she said in a statement.
Brooke Goldstein, a human rights attorney who serves as the president of The Lawfare Project and founded the End Jew Hatred movement, said she believes more could be done to “root out” groups that sympathize with the terrorists.
“American Jews are obviously concerned, but they are also united,” Goldstein said. “We are grateful to law enforcement but are concerned that not enough is being done to root out groups that are connected to and sympathize with terror organizations.
“I must emphasize that the presence of pro terror, pro Hamas groups in America in such large numbers and in such positions of authority is a great national security threat to our country. The Muslim Brotherhood infiltration in government, unions and schools is real, and Americans must no longer be intimidated by false cries of ‘Islamophobia’ to silence open dialogue about this very real issue of national security.”
Goldstein also made it clear Jews living in America will remain focused as they seek to defend their right to life and insisted other nations should do the same.
“The Jewish people are eternal,” she said. “We have outlived all of our enemies for centuries. But at great cost. In 2023, it is no longer acceptable, however, that we should be defending our right to life. It is no longer acceptable for the world to stand by or justify or appease or support such terror.”
Echoing Goldstein, another individual who serves as the principal of a New York Jewish day school said he feels law enforcement officials and the federal government are “absolutely not” doing enough to combat the rise in antisemitism seen in different parts of the country.
“To allow campuses to … hold rallies where people are promoting the rape of women and the murder of children, where they are holding up pictures that say ‘Death to Jews, Death to Israel.’ This is the United States. You have free speech, but there’s limits,” said the man, whose identity is being withheld for safety precautions.
The man noted that he has requested an NYPD officer be present at his school, but that request was denied. The NYPD instead told him it would patrol the area.
Despite the safety concerns, the man said Friday evening he would “be walking to my synagogue this evening, and I could care less.”
“My grandparents survived the Holocaust, and I’ll be damned if the United States of America allows something like that to happen again,” he added.
Speaking about the level of threats against Jewish Americans, Richard Priem, the deputy national director and chief operating officer of Community Security Service, said, “Whenever there’s been an uptick of violence in Israel … you’ve seen an uptick in antisemitic incidents in the United States as well.”
“What happened last Saturday was the most deadly attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. So, anyone who is Jewish will feel unsettled by the grotesque abuses and the horrors that were perpetrated on the people in southern Israel by the Hamas terrorist infiltrators,” Priem said.
Regarding the rise in antisemitism across the globe, including the United States, Priem said he and CSS are in “very close contact with law enforcement.”
Priem, who recently returned to the United States from Israel, said he “felt a real sense of solidarity, a real sense of commitment” by officials to help secure Jewish American institutions.
Amid Hamas leadership’s call for a “global day of Jihad,” several major cities, including New York, enhanced police presence on Friday. A surge of uniformed NYPD officers were spread throughout the city Friday at places like public, private and religious schools, houses of worship and in Jewish neighborhoods.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that antisemitic incidents grew to historic levels in 2022, with a total of 3,697 incidents across the U.S., an increase of 36% from the previous year.
Fox News’ Greg Wehner contributed to this report.