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Oregon Police To Increase Patrols Near Jewish Centers After Shooting

<p>The Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Southwest Portland received a bomb threat, following a string of similar incidents in other cities.</p>

Rob Manning

The Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Southwest Portland received a bomb threat, following a string of similar incidents in other cities.

Marc Blattner turned on his TV Saturday to see a man he first worked with 24 years ago in Baltimore. It was Jeff Finkelstein, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, on CNN, reacting to a shooting inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

A message went out through a local text network to Jewish agencies in town. The shooting left multiple people dead.

"It basically said, 'I'm sure you've all seen the news, here's what's happening, we're in touch with local law enforcement, please be vigilant,'" said Blattner, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.

The Jewish community in Portland and southwest Washington is 35,000 people strong, according to Blattner. And while talk of security is not new, Blattner said there is a heightened sense of vigilance. At least two Oregon law enforcement agencies — the Portland Police Bureau and the Eugene Police Department — say they are increasing patrols around Jewish places of worship following the shooting in Pittsburgh. That follows similar measures at police departments in cities like Oakland and Seattle.

"I just think there's even more awareness today with an outgrowth of more vocal anti-Semitism and hate groups here in the United States," Blattner said.

In Eugene, hate crime data shows the Jewish community was targeted in 15 out of 19 reported hate crimes motivated by religion in 2016.

In March of last year, the Portland Police Bureau responded to a bomb threat at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Southwest Portland amid a string of bomb threats aimed at Jewish community centers at the time.

"The Police Bureau is aware of the concern and sadness incidents such as the one in Pittsburgh have on the community in Portland," said Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw. "Our officers are reaching out to leaders of Jewish houses of worship in the city of Portland and will be present to provide security and a sense of safety as community members come together to grieve and begin the healing process."

The Jewish Federation has previously offered security grants for Jewish organizations in Portland for large-scale events and Jewish high holidays. Blattner said the federation is in regular contact with local law enforcement, the FBI and Homeland Security. Blattner says the federation plans to meet with local Jewish institutions next week to talk about security.

Like Blattner, Bob Horenstein, director of community relations with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, turned on his TV Saturday in shock. He sees the tragedy as part of a national climate of intolerance that has been unleashed.

"We've unfortunately gone through too many of these," Horenstein said.

"And when I say 'we,' I mean we as Americans. Think about Charleston, and how someone walked in and killed people studying the bible," he said.

"It could have been us."

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ericka Cruz Guevarra