Las Vegas Sun

October 15, 2019

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Las Vegas Jewish, LGBTQ communities grateful, on guard after white supremacist’s arrest

March And Rally Protest Anti-Semitism

Steve Marcus

Rabbi Yitzchak Wyne speaks during a rally at UNLV Monday, March 6, 2017. About 200 people marched and rallied to protest recent acts of anti-Semitism in Las Vegas and across the United States.

Rabbi Yitz Wyne found at least one silver lining in the initial shock and disappointment: A planned attack on a Las Vegas synagogue by a self-described white supremacist has brought his faith community closer.

The attitude in Jewish philosophy that every good action taken by a person creates a spiritual force was on display last weekend, he proudly says.

“Here you have this white supremacist on a chat room; he could have gotten away with it,” said Wyne, of Young Israel Aish. “People here are learning Torah and are connected by coming to synagogue on Shabbat and observing HaShem. In a spiritual sense, they played a role in the protection of the Jewish people.”

Last week, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Conor Climo, a 23-year-old security guard who officials say was plotting an attack in Las Vegas. When Climo was arrested, authorities found materials that could have been used to make explosives, and a notebook detailing his plans.

Climo had considered the different ways he could kill Jewish people for more than two years, authorities said. He was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm, namely, the component parts of a destructive device, according to the U.S. attorney’s local office.

“We have a lot of gratitude toward the almighty, to the FBI and Metro,” Wyne said. “There’s been strong (police) presence here. They’ve been wonderful, constantly circulating around.”

Last weekend was Tisha B’av — a period of mourning and introspection in Judaism. It’s considered the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, as it commemorates a number of disasters in Jewish history, particularly the destruction of two major temples. The annual fast day coincided with news of Climo’s arrest. In addition to planning an attack on a local synagogue, authorities said, he also was plotting a strike on a bar frequented by members of the LGBTQ community.

“It really was an initial shock for a lot of people,” Wyne said.

Officials from the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada had a similar reaction, expressing their gratitude to law enforcement and reaffirming that hate has no place in the Las Vegas community.

“As we continue to see a rise in crimes against minority groups, including the LGBTQ community, any threat on one becomes a threat on all,” the group said in a statement. “Hate has no place in our community, especially when armed with assault rifles and bomb supplies.”

News of the would-be attacker’s arrest comes at a time when mass shootings are traumatizing the nation, including a pair of attacks just hours apart this month.

Wyne said his temple hired an armed security guard in the aftermath of the October 2018 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, where a gunman killed 11 people and injured six others during Shabbat morning services.

“It does comfort people to know that there is someone outside,” Wyne said.

He lamented that the temple had to spend some of its funds on safety over charity.

“Unfortunately, these things are expensive. Every time there’s an attack, resources go toward more security and putting in more barriers and cameras. That’s money that could be going toward helping people,” he said.

The Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-Semitic incidents have been at a historic high since the group first started tracking data in 1979. Wyne said that growing up with anti-Semitism was “part of the existence of being Jewish.”

Extremists are emboldened online on platforms like Twitter and 8chan, said Jolie Brislin, regional director of the ADL in Nevada.

“At the end of the day, with the rise of hate, we have a responsibility to model our behavior and speak up when we see hateful rhetoric,” she said. “It’s more important now than ever to not only speak up, but educate our children.”