Beth El To Reopen Monday As Investigation Continues

Beth El Synagogue will reopen on Monday morning for all activities, while the investigation into the “specific threat of violence” that closed the building continues.

Matt Walzer, the synagogue’s managing director, sent an email to the congregation Sunday afternoon announcing the decision. 

“While the investigation of last week’s threat remains active and ongoing, the timeframe of the threat has passed,” Walzer’s email said. “In coordination with local authorities, we are proceeding with this decision and have secured additional law enforcement presence to ensure the safety of our synagogue community and preschool families.

“As we head into Yom Kippur, I want to extend my gratitude for your patience and support as we navigated this incident.”

Officials from the FBI, St. Louis Park Police Department, JCRC and the ADL Midwest have all confirmed this weekend that the investigation is ongoing.

Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said the mood in the community was “resolute, vigilant, concerned, but ultimately, calm.”

“It’s a good sign that Beth El resumed business as usual [Monday],” he said. “People are certainly asking about the situation and talking about it in the community, and they’re wanting to know how it might impact services at other institutions. The Beth El example is important in their going forward with services and all other activities they provide their community. It’s a good role model for the rest of the community.”

The threat was sent in to the ADL Midwest via its online incident reporting system on Thursday night, specifically targeting Friday night services at the St. Louis Park synagogue. The details of what was in the threat have not been disclosed.

An email announcing the building closure, including all Friday services and the Aleph Preschool. 

“Since being notified, we have been in close communication with local and federal law enforcement regarding this matter and they are actively investigating in collaboration with ADL Midwest and the JCRC of Minnesota and the Dakotas,” Walzer said on Friday.

According to a statement from the St. Louis Park Police Department, they were notified of the posting at approximately 9:15 p.m. Thursday night. “St. Louis Park police officers and investigators began the process of trying to identify the source of the message and whether any related suspicious activity was occurring in the vicinity – none has been identified at this time,” the statement read. “Through the (Thursday) night and during (Friday) morning, St. Louis Park police and investigators have been continuing to investigate and information has been shared with state and federal authorities, local community organizations and schools in the area.”

At a Friday afternoon press conference, St. Louis Park Mayor Jake Spano lauded the close connection between Beth El and law enforcement. 

“The big takeaway for me right now is the confidence…that our police department and the Jewish community in St. Louis Park have developed, over the years, a tight, tight relationship and coordination around these sorts of threats,” he said. “As tragic as this may be, [the threat] will not diminish the Jewish community.”

Said Hunegs: “We live in a time where there have been years of security planning for the community,” Hunegs said. “It’s important to keep in mind that we’ve grown experienced in dealing with such issues, which are, unfortunately, a reflection of the time in which we live. [Our response] wasn’t invented today or yesterday. We’ve been working on this for a while.”

In a separate incident late last week, the investigation into the vandalization of 32 headstones at the Chesed Shel Emes Cemetery on St. Paul’s eastside is also ongoing.

“The JCRC is also taking this incident very seriously and we are working with our law enforcement partners as they investigate,” Hunegs said. “We do not know at this time if these separate incidents are related.”