When a gunman opened fire in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue last fall, Stephen Weiss heard gunshots and saw shell casings hit the floor. He was about to get down when he remembered the active shooter training that taught him to flee. “I didn’t have time to stand there and question myself . . . I just had to do something,” said Weiss, a schoolteacher. He fled. “That 10 seconds was probably the difference between me living or not.” On Tuesday, Weiss shared his story with dozens of law enforcement and security officials and representatives of Jewish groups who gathered in Washington, D.C., for a planning exercise on how they would respond to future attacks on Jewish facilities, the Washington Post reports.
The event comes at a moment with the specter of recent bloodshed including the massacre in Pittsburgh and the attacks last month on New Zealand mosques looming large. In both incidents, authorities have said the suspected attackers espoused white-supremacist ideology. FBI Director Christopher Wray, addressing Congress this month, said white supremacists and other violent extremists were “a persistent, pervasive threat.” Tuesday’s exercise was organized by the Department of Homeland Security and Secure Community Network, a nonprofit focused on security across Jewish institutions. Jewish communities and centers remain targets, said Michael Masters of the Secure Community Network. He said people used to worry about “not if, but when” an attack could occur. Now, he said, the question is: “When again?” Tuesday’s event was a tabletop exercise running through how the participants would react to a wave of threats followed by a string of attacks at U.S. Jewish facilities and events.