HONOLULU — Temple Emanu-El and Chabad of Hawaii, two synagogues on Oahu, are enhancing their security as antisemitic incidents increase following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel.  

“Whenever there’s conflict in the Middle East in particular, when we have conflict that Israel is involved in, we tend to see a rise of antisemitism globally,” said Cris Borden, president of Temple Emanu-El. “And for that reason, even though we’re in Hawaii, we just want to make sure that our membership at Temple is comfortable and safe when coming to Temple. That’s the reasoning behind the need to increase security that we have at the temple.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that combats antisemitism, said that since the Israel-Hamas War started on Oct. 7, they have recorded a nearly 400% increase in antisemitic incidents across the U.S. over the same period last year. The ADL recorded 312 antisemitic incidents between Oct. 7-23, 2023, with 190 of those related to the Israel-Hamas War. According to the ADL, two of those incidents took place on Oahu.

Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky said after Oct. 7, Chabad of Hawaii hired police officers and private security to protect the synagogue when families gather for Sunday school, and congregants come for Friday and Saturday services. 

Before the Hamas attack in Israel, Chabad of Hawaii did not have any security guards since the synagogue is located in a secure building, according to Krasnjansky.

“There’s really no reason to be concerned — until what happened in Israel and unfortunately, the pro-Palestinian marches,” Krasnjansky said.

Temple Emanu-El increased security for services and special events. Borden declined to share specifics about the temple’s security measures, citing safety concerns. 

Both synagogues' security measures are precautionary. Since the Oct. 7 attacks, Krasnjansky and Borden said there haven’t been any threats made to their respective synagogues.

“We just want to make sure that the folks that come to Temple know that we’re keeping them safe and that they’ll be comfortable when they set foot inside our congregation,” Borden said. 

For members who might not feel comfortable attending services in person, Temple Emanu-El hired technology support personnel to stream services on Vimeo. Borden said this is similar to what the synagogue has done since the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Boden sent an email to the Temple Emanu-El congregation asking for donations and saying the temple needed to raise $50,000 to cover the costs of the enhanced security and streaming services. 

Despite concerns about safety and rising antisemitism, Boden said the silver lining was seeing the Jewish community coming together. 

“It unifies … It brings us together as a people,” Boden said. 

Michelle Broder Van Dyke covers the Hawaiian Islands for Spectrum News Hawaii. Email her at michelle.brodervandyke@charter.com.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include additional infromation from the ADL. (Nov. 8, 2023)