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Unexpected guests put Emanuel Synagogue (and the West Hartford Jewish community) on alert


WEST HARTFORD – As the Ledger went to press, reports that two unfamiliar women acting suspiciously had appeared at two local Jewish events over the course of the weekend was causing apprehension among West Hartford’s Jewish community.

According to reports, the first incident took place on Saturday, Dec. 5, when the women joined the Emanuel Synagogue congregation for services.

“On Shabbat morning, Emanuel was visited by two persons who were not known to us and whose conduct seemed strange. When welcomed, they were evasive regarding who they were or where they were from,” Rabbi David Small, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, told the Ledger.

Emanuel was quick to send out an email to congregants on Dec. 7 from synagogue president Dr. Sheila Silverman, detailing the incident and its aftermath. Silverman described the women as wearing “headscarves and caftan robes.” They remained in the sanctuary for the duration of services, she wrote, after which they were greeted and invited to stay for kiddush by the Conservative congregation’s clergy, including Small, Cantor Sanford Cohn, and Ritual Director Moshe Pinchover.

The women “were asked some basic questions about where they were from and their interest in us. They gave vague and conflicting answers about where they were from and left shortly thereafter,” Silverman noted.

Eye-witnesses who wished to remain anonymous reported to the Ledger that the women were asking odd questions and did not stay for kiddush, but spent some time whispering in the ladies’ room and then left the building.

Emanuel administration contacted the West Hartford Police Department and arranged for a patrol car and officer to be present at the synagogue that evening during a concert.

In her email, Silverman also noted that the next day, on Sunday evening, Dec. 6, two women answering the same description appeared at the “Fire and Ice” menorah lighting hosted by Chabad in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. The Ledger was unable to confirm that report.

“Our leadership and staff are working with the West Hartford Police to make sure that our people and our building are secure,” Small told the Ledger. “We will maintain our welcoming and inclusive culture while taking precautions to become more secure for all who enter. We are in touch with other congregations and Jewish community leadership to share information and mutual support.”

At press time, West Hartford police, including two assistant chiefs and a detective captain, were meeting with Jewish communal leaders to discuss ongoing security measures.

A police spokesman told the Ledger that the department had identified and spoken with the two women in question, and that patrol officers would be posted at Emanuel before and after services and events for the rest of the month, as requested by synagogue administration. They would not comment further.

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