LUBBOCK, Texas — There has been a Jewish community in Lubbock for over a century. Rabbi Carla Fenves said the community at Congregation Shaareth Israel, while small in numbers, feels a deep connection to West Texas, the city and even Texas Tech University.
“There are Israeli students at Texas Tech, there are many Jewish families who have friends and close relatives in Israel,” Fenves said. “In general, there’s been a deep sense of fear, and sadness.”
As of Sunday, more than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of which were civilians slaughtered during Hamas’ initial attack back on Oct. 7. Over 200 people were taken hostage and dragged into Gaza that same day.
Even 7,000 miles away from the war, many in Lubbock said they feared for their safety here on U.S. soil.
“We’ve been really aware around the country,” Fenves said. ‘A combination of social media threats, and then more particular synagogues that’ve had bomb threats. We are fortunate we haven’t gotten any of that locally, but we want to be prepared.”
In the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel, Jewish and Israel related groups across the country have heightened their security measures. Fenves said her congregation in Lubbock is no exception.
“We feel incredibly fortunate that the local police department, the local FBI agency, and so many local churches and other interfaith groups have reached out, have made sure we’re okay, have asked what we need, and have helped us think through how to make our community and the synagogue itself as safe as possible,” Fenves said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said antisemitic incidents have surged across the country since the conflict began.
“When there’s an attack on Israel, we see antisemitism rise in America unfortunately,” said Stacy Cushing, regional director for the Texoma office of the ADL.
According to the ADL, Texas had over 200 antisemitic incidents in 2022, which ranks fifth highest in the nation. The organization reports two antisemitic incidents for Lubbock in 2023.
“We all need to understand that this isn’t just something that’s happening abroad,” Cushing said. “It’s happening right here at home.”
Fenves said many Jews in the Hub City are feeling more vulnerable than usual and that’s why the outreach from organizations across town has meant so much more.
“Many may not know that many people who are Jewish or may not even realize they know people who are Jewish, but if you do, even just a phone call, a text, just reaching out to say, ‘I can’t imagine and I want to see if you’re okay, and if you’re not okay, if there’s something I can do,’” Fenves said. “That deep sense of empathy, and that sense that the community feels seen and heard will go so far in this particular moment in our history.”
With the conflict raging on into a third week, innocent Palestinians living in Gaza are also being caught in crosshairs. To that, Fenves said she believes most Jewish Americans are praying for peace and the ability to peacefully coexist in a historic land.