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Marc Dion: Armed Guards Among the Jews

Tonight, a month or so after the shootings at a synagogue in Pennsylvania (remember those? I didn’t think so.), I went to an “interfaith memorial service” at a synagogue about five minutes from my house in a midsized Massachusetts city.

I lived four blocks from that synagogue for 16 years, and you could see the back of it from the small corner store where I bought beer, frozen pizza and newspapers. We waked my father in a funeral home just a block from that synagogue.

Over the years, working as a reporter in the city where I live, I found myself in the synagogue from time to time, covering an event, a service, one of the holidays, things any reporter covers every so often at synagogues and Methodist churches and Catholic churches.

Once a decade or so, some yo-yo with a complete misunderstanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ would vandalize the place, paint a swastika on the wall, and I covered that, too, including the expected sorrowful, angry interview with the rabbi and a mushy quote about “diversity” from the mayor.

“Keep that kind of story short,” a barnacled old editor once told me. “You don’t want to encourage the little (redacted) who did it.”

Which I did.

Tonight, I put on khaki pants, what my mother would call “a nice shirt,” and a dark-green tweed jacket. I dug the gold brocade yarmulke out of my sock drawer. I’m not Jewish, but I acquired the yarmulke under boring circumstances some years ago and it’s come in handy on some news stories, at Jewish funerals or weddings, and when invited to a friend’s house for Passover.

Not that you to need to bring your own yarmulke to the temple. They have a cardboard box of cheap ones for the non-Jewish to borrow. But I like having my own.

“Hey, you’re not playing with a kid here,” I say when one of the members of the congregation offers me my choice from the cardboard box. “I got my own yarmulke.”

Then I slap the thing on my head with a flourish, and find a seat.

The memorial service was exactly what I expected. You had your elderly congregation. You had your politicians, all of them at least nominally Christian. You had your professional battlers for tolerance.

And you had me.

And, for the first time, you had two security guards in the lobby of the place.

They weren’t those joke security guards, either, like the fat guy in the uniform shirt who chases the junkies out of the dollar store parking lot. They had pistols on their hips.

In my two decades of semi-involvement with that synagogue, I’d never seen armed guards on the premises. I lived in that neighborhood for 16 years, and because I was young and single, I was on the streets at every hour of the day and night, coming home from a night shift, coming home from a bar.

I nodded at them and smiled, and they looked me over, and they nodded and smiled and, as I declined the loaner yarmulke, putting on the one I’ve owned for years, I heard one of them talking to the other about an upcoming assignment he had at a local bar this coming weekend.

I lived in that neighborhood for 16 years. I’ve lived in this country for 61 years.

This is where I live now.

— Marc Dion is a columnist at the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News and author of The Land of Trumpin’, a collection of his columns about the man who heads what was once the mightiest nation on earth. Contact hin at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter: @MARCMDION. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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