Aventura Jewish community shaken by word of terror plot

AVENTURA, Fla. (WSVN) — Aventura’s Jewish community expressed safety concerns days after federal agents arrested a man who, they said, planned to throw an explosive device into a local synagogue.

The Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center was the focus of an FBI undercover sting after, law enforcement officials said, 40-year-old James Medina had planned to execute a terror attack. Federal agents arrested him as he approached the synagogue with what he thought was an explosive, Friday evening.

Three days later, area residents were so frightened following news of Medina’s arrest that some of them declined to speak on camera to 7News.

Paula Brown said she fears for her neighborhood’s safety. "We’re all afraid of them, and we cannot do nothing, so I hope the police know what they’re doing and helping us," she said.

Neighbor Henry Derry said he’s scared for his children. "I’m concerned about that, really, because, you know, I have three kids," he said.

A rabbi at a nearby synagogue also echoed other resident’s worries. "The family is very, very scared, about the children, about the family, about the people who go to the synagogue," said Rabbi Zion Cohen.

Monday morning, Aventura Police officers were on hand providing extra security as parents dropped their children off at the center’s school, the Herman and Miriam Tauber Academy. A large metal gate closed after each vehicle.

On the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center’s Facebook page, leaders posted a lengthy security update that reveals they have been working with a security firm since last fall. It reads in part, "Our congregation engaged Wayne Black & Associates, an independent and internationally recognized firm with expertise in all areas of security, to comprehensively review all of our security protocols. We are working closely with them to enhance our security program together with local law enforcement."

Attached to the post is an audio recording of young children singing a Hebrew song. One of its verses is, "The people of Israel live."

Synagogue leaders said the academy’s students start their week every Monday with this song, and they indicated next Monday would be no different. They will be open and operating as usual and reported no risks during the police investigation or credible threats at this time.

The center’s leadership also urged the community and those who pray or attend services here to always report suspicious activity to their staff and police.

For the time being, however, residents’ nerves remain rattled. "This is what happens. I’m Jewish, too," said Brown. "We always have to be afraid. It doesn’t matter where we go."