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Long Island

Added security in place for Yom Kippur, which began at sundown

Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, began Tuesday at sundown and lasts until Wednesday evening — about 25 hours of prayer and fasting for the Jewish faithful.

The Day of Atonement also will be accompanied by added police presence around synagogues, as law enforcement agencies in both Nassau and Suffolk counties increased patrols to keep temple-goers safe this holy season.

"Our synagogues and religious centers are places for our residents to come together to celebrate their faith and community, and we continue to do everything in our power to safeguard them," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement Monday.

Both Nassau and Suffolk police said the added patrols were being done out of an abundance of caution and as a reassurance to observers, noting there have been no credible threats made against any group or institution. Additionally, a number of synagogues have recently hired private security firms to reinforce safety, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said last month that he had directed State Police to increase their security presence during the Jewish holidays.

The added presence comes in the wake of attacks on houses of worship, both nationally and internationally, in recent years, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said, noting that the goal of her department was to work with religious leaders to create "a safe environment" for all religious services and events.

In April, four people were shot, one fatally, inside a San Diego-area synagogue where many were celebrating the end of Passover. That shooting came six months after another at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people.

Last month, Rabbi Art Vernon of Shaaray Shalom synagogue in West Hempstead said his synagogue was one of 17 in Nassau County that had received Homeland Security grants to increase protective security. Officials at other local synagogues said they have increased preparedness drills, just in case.

"We need to be prepared for how to answer anti-Semitic acts," Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz of Temple Beth Torah in Melville said last month.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder noted his department remains in constant contact with the FBI and NYPD to coordinate intelligence gathering in order to maintain a protective shield. As of last month, there had been 50 reported hate crimes in Nassau, 30 of them anti-Semitic.

Cuomo has spoken of the importance of a united front in the fight against hate. 

"In New York," the governor said in a statement last month, "we value diversity, inclusion and acceptance — and I want to assure our Jewish brothers and sisters that New York stands united with them now and always."

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