Local Jewish communities prepare for Passover amid FBI threat warnings

Author: Emma Heaton, Camila Pereira Writer: Emma Heaton
Published: Updated:

As Jewish communities worldwide gear up to celebrate Passover starting Monday, the FBI has issued warnings about potential threats, heightening concerns for many, including those in Southwest Florida.

Passover holds deep significance, commemorating the liberation of Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Families gather for special meals called Seders, retelling the story of Exodus through rituals and symbolic foods.

It’s a time for reflection on freedom and resilience, resonating with themes of hope and liberation.

Jewish communities, including Southwest Florida, face unease despite the holiday’s celebratory nature.

FBI on alert

On Thursday, Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, stated, “I want you to know that we at the FBI are closely tracking these very real threats that have your communities on edge, and we’re actively hitting back at the perpetrators full force.”

Carrie Elise Simms, Co-Chair of Solidarity with Israel Coalition, believes there is a need to take threats seriously.

“Unfortunately, we have a huge network throughout America that is, unfortunately, anti-Israel, anti-Jew, incredibly antisemitic,” said Simms. “I think people shouldn’t succumb to fear or anxiety, even though that’s a natural reaction, but they do need to be very vigilant and really take these threats seriously.”

Simms talked about the resilience of the Jewish community and urged the celebration of Passover despite fears.

“It’s important for us to be out there to celebrate Passover, but also take security very, very, very seriously,” Simms said.

One Israeli woman, who chose to remain anonymous out of fear, echoed similar sentiments.

That woman emphasized the message of Passover: “If they can survive and stand up and have the heart and the resilience to move forward, that’s the message of Passover.”

Law enforcement agency response

Local law enforcement agencies have pledged increased vigilance in response to the heightened concerns. They offered the following statements:

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office:

“Our agency is aware of the concerns and we will have additional patrols in the areas identified as ‘at risk’ in order to protect the people of Charlotte County. Our Intelligence Unit utilizes investigative measures that we are unable to discuss.”

Fort Myers Police Department:

“The Fort Myers Police Department is constantly monitoring at local, state and federal levels and deploys assets as necessary. At this time, we do not have any concerns with this holiday. However, we continue to monitor as we do for all potential security risks.”

Collier County Sheriff’s Office:

“As always, we work closely with our community and law enforcement partners and monitor all matters related to public safety. We are unable to comment on enhanced safety protocols we enact in response to any public safety concern because they are tactical in nature.”

Lee County Sheriff’s Office:

“Our deputies routinely conduct area checks and focused patrol at places of worship.

“Third precinct will deploy an observation tower at Temple Beth El, 16225 Winkler Road, this afternoon. This particular precinct has several temples, and the Captain constantly communicates with the rabbis. This is not just limited to the third precinct. Our precincts are in tune with their local temples, as seen from the area check statistics since January 2024. The observation tower is being placed at this temple because it is in a high-traffic area and has weekend services.

“From January of this year to right now, LCSO has done 20,172 area checks of places of worship.”

Cape Coral Police Department:

“We are always in contact with our local Jewish temple. They are a community we consistently keep an eye on to make sure they are kept safe, especially with potential international concerns bleeding over. We never stop patrolling for safety purposes. They can always call the police department and request additional to ease any possible concerns.”

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