White Noise and Unnecessary Evil: Balancing Security and Community in Synagogues

Authors: Maxim Samson*, DePaul University
Topics: Religion and Belief Systems , Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Security, synagogues, places of worship, hate crimes, terrorism
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 48
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Violent hate crimes at synagogues in recent years have engendered a distinctive dilemma for such institutions: How can one ensure people’s safety and security without compromising the warm and welcoming environment that these communities seek to create? Drawing upon interviews with Jewish leaders, this paper explores how this dilemma is being negotiated by synagogues in Chicago. After presenting several key predicaments faced by synagogues as regards security, the paper will argue that securitization should be understood as a form of "white noise," necessary to their functioning and yet necessarily invisible. Indeed, although security is now an essential feature of many synagogues, it is also at constant risk of undermining their cordial ambience through providing a reminder of one’s mortality, requiring that it be present, but in the background. Consequently, synagogues today are compelled to find a careful balance between hospitality and openness, with diverse and often paradoxical implications.

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