ADL commends police, Temple Israel response to protest
Published 2:33 pm, Thursday, May 14, 2015
The Anti-Defamation League is commending "the outstanding work of the Westport Police Department and the staff of Temple Israel of Westport for their swift action in response to two intruders at the synagogue earlier this week."
On Tuesday, two men attempted to force their way into the synagogue to protest a women's luncheon sponsored by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. After refusing requests from Temple Israel staff to leave, the intruders "were subdued by staff members and 911 was called," the ADL said in a statement Thursday. "Westport police were on the scene in minutes and arrested the intruders."
The synagogue, as well as several public schools and the Unitarian Church preschool nearby, took steps to secure their facilities while police conducted a sweep of the area.
No one was injured and no weapon was found, according to police, although there were initial reports from some attending the event that they feared the men may have been armed.
The two men who disrupted the luncheon -- Daniel Fischer and Gregory Williams, both 25-year-old New Haven residents -- called themselves "Jewish anti-apartheid activists" and said they were trying to read a statement from a Palestinian woman to the gathering. Both were arrested on several charges.
"While we recognize the intruders' right to protest, we are particularly concerned with the impact that the intruders' actions have had on the Westport Jewish community," said Marji Lipshez-Shapiro, ADL Connecticut interim regional director.
"There are a number of ways in which they could have protested that would not have caused the community to worry about its safety," she added. "The ADL supports Israel's right to exist as a democratic Jewish state, but neither our stance nor the intruders' stance on Israel is the key issue. Rather, of utmost importance is that protests do not make communities feel threatened, marginalized or unsafe."
She added that ADL is "grateful to the Westport Police Department for their sense of urgency, their professionalism and for the seriousness with which they take their responsibility to protect the Jewish community and all other religious communities and schools in town."
"We would also like to recognize the staff at Temple Israel, who have spent dozens of hours working with the Westport police on how to properly respond to a security threat," Lipshez-Shapiro added. "By all accounts, they acted seamlessly in an effort to safeguard the women at the luncheon, the children in the synagogue's preschool and all others in the area."