Local Jewish leaders on mission of safety after 'hate crime' shooting in Kansas City

CINCINNATI -- As the nation struggles to cope with the shooting deaths of three people at a Kansas City Jewish community center and retirement complex, Cincinnati Jewish leaders are on a mission of safety.

“Immediately after thinking about the community in Kansas City, we began thinking about security in our own community,” said Sarah Weiss, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.

Police said Frazier Glenn Cross fatally shot two people Sunday afternoon in the parking lot behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, then drove to a retirement community where he shot a third person. He was later arrested in an elementary school parking lot.

Prosecutors say they have enough evidence to pursue hate-crime charges in the case.

When Weiss heard the news of the attack, she said her heart immediately went out to the victims.

“You never know when such a tragedy is going to strike, and I certainly hope and pray no community faces such tragedy,” she said. “But the reality is, we have to be prepared for these situations.”

Weiss said safety is always of concern and at the forefront of her organization.

In addition to the security that was already in place, she said the center added several precautionary measures this week.

Outside the Mayerson Jewish Community Center on Ridge Road sits a police car. Inside, there is a control desk and a new high-tech gateway system that allows only those with proper identification access.

But Weiss said the Tri-State’s Jewish community is not in any danger.

“We've been in close communication with local law enforcement and the FBI and we're confident there's no threat to our community at this time,” she said.

There are 31 “hate groups” in Ohio, including ten in the Tri-State, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center . Those include several Ku Klux Klan groups and Nazi organizations.

Authorities said the man accused in the Kansas City shootings is a former Ku Klux Klan leader who was once the subject of a nationwide manhunt.

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Mark Dowd, director of community security for the Greater Cincinnati Jewish Community, said he is working to promote a message of security throughout the region.

Dowd leads Safe Cincinnati, a program created by the Jewish Foundation through the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati to specifically address security concerns in the Jewish community.

“I've met with a lot of local police chiefs and all of them from top to bottom graciously accepted us and welcomed me into their office,” Dowd said.

Dowd said he is not aware of a single direct threat to the local Jewish community.

But he said that doesn't mean anyone should let their guard down.

"Just keep the message to be vigilant in your community and if you see something suspicious, you should say something immediately,” Dowd said.

Weiss said families in Kansas City and the Tri-State will be joined in kindred spirit Monday as they celebrate Passover.

She said the timing of the shooting is tragic, but regardless, it should never happen.

"We should do everything we can to work against this kind of hate and intolerance in our world,” Weiss said. “As we head into Passover, we'll be thinking of (the victims). I'm sure at our Seders. I know I will."

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