Support of An Act to Prohibit Unauthorized Paramilitary Training

The Board of Directors of Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor, Maine’s oldest Jewish congregation, unanimously supports LD2130/HP1354, “An Act to Prohibit Unauthorized Paramilitary Training.”

It should go without saying that Jewish communities throughout North America have been subject to a significant increase in antisemitism since October 7th.  Our community in Bangor was already on edge due to the possibility of a white supremacist training camp in Penobscot County.  Representative Laurie Osher of Orono and Senator Joe Baldacci both responded quickly to our concerns and presented legislation that mirrors numerous other states, including legislation recently passed in neighboring Vermont.

While the events in Israel on October 7th have seen vandalism and harassment increase, white supremacist ideologies remain the costliest for Jewish institutions.  Our own community’s expenses, for each of Bangor’s three synagogues as well as our local grant-making Jewish Community Endowment Associates, have been extraordinary since the Tree of Life shooting in 2018.

We routinely must conduct “stop the bleed” and active shooter training.  We constantly prepare for mass casualty producing events.  We have armed security for routine worship and our holidays.

It’s not just us.  Ideologies evinced by people like Chris Polhaus target the LGBTQ+ and immigrant community.  We’ve seen their hatred bring campaigns of intimidation against marginalized groups from Portland to Unity.  They target mosques.  They target Pride events.  They target churches.

Communities like ours in Maine are not large, and we are even more dependent the criminalization of paramilitary training.  We are soft and immediate targets should more white supremacist organizations choose to root their activities in this state.

We implore members of the state House to reflect concern for the safety of those of us most vulnerable by supporting LD2310/HP1354.