During a tour of his Goshen synagogue on Tuesday, Rabbi Meir Borenstein showed Spectrum News the congregation's tefillin — little black boxes containing scrolls with Torah verses on them, usually attached to a strap.
Some rabbis believe that when the tefillin are worn during prayers, they bring protection.
While Borenstein believes in such sacred teachings, he also believes rabbis must do more to protect congregants at a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise nationwide and in New York State.
"Of course, we have the spiritual protection. We have the Torah. We have the tefillin," Rabbi Borenstein said. "And as I have said, we're going to do all we can to have actual physical protection down here."
For the standard protections, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County is giving five grants — each worth $5,000 — to synagogues in its service area.
According to the federation's director, the money is going to be used by local synagogues to upgrade camera surveillance systems, reinforce entrances and exits and to put emergency exits near the sanctuaries. The plan is to have the security upgrades finished by the time the 2019 High Holidays begin in September.
The security upgrades had been planned long before Saturday's attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, and are funded by an anonymous donor who became concerned about synagogue security following the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Warwick in 2016, the federation's director said.
The necessity of those simpler measures is widely agreed upon by several Hudson Valley rabbis who have spoken with Spectrum News about security since Saturday's attack.
Another more controversial measure, lightly suggested by Orange County Sheriff Carl Dubois, is to arm — and train — some clergy.
Multiple sources tell Spectrum News there have been talks between local clergy and the sheriff on how to "harden" places of worship that are considered "soft targets."
"Never ever in my wildest dreams did I think the world would come to this," Sheriff Dubois said when reached by phone Tuesday morning.
Dubois said he has spoken with several rabbis about hardening their synagogues and is willing to train some congregants on handgun use and security through Operation Archangel, a program focused on protecting people at mass gatherings.
"You'll get some kinds of law enforcement saying, 'Well, we don't want to make churches armed camps.' We're not saying that," Dubois said. "But you know, we have to be aware of the world we live in and the dangers opposing us. We have to be prepared."
Borenstein said that he knows of other Jewish clergy who agree with the sheriff.
"Colleagues of mine have told me that they have specific congregants who will carry [guns] during their services just as a precaution," Borenstein said.
The sheriff pointed to one recent conversation with a local rabbi, that the sheriff said is suggestive of a changing mindset toward the idea of hardening places of worship and teaching congregants to fight back if necessary.
"I spoke to a rabbi last night. He says he's seriously considering getting his handgun permit," Dubois said. "It's not just me. He gets it."