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Pueblo plotter pleads not guilty

Temple Emanuel Pueblo (Marc Schuman)

Richard Holzer, arrested by the FBI on Nov. 1 for plotting to blow up Pueblo’s Temple Emanuel, plead not guilty on all charges at his arraignment in federal court Monday, Nov. 25.

“Not a lot happened,” says Temple Emanuel Rabbi Birdie Becker, who attended the proceedings in Denver with four congregants sporting synagogue sweatshirts and T-shirts.

At a follow-up status hearing in another court, a judge discussed how long it would take to assemble documents and witnesses with the prosecutorial and defense teams in order to set a realistic trial date.

“This probably won’t go to trial until April,” Becker says.

Although Holzer’s photograph has been widely circulated in newspapers and on TV, this was the first time Becker had observed the 27-year-old white supremacist in person.

“It was the first time we faced him,” Becker says. “Our presence in that courtroom said, ‘Look at who we are — we are the people you want to destroy. But we’re here to stay.

“ ‘You’re not going to scare us off. We have roots. We are supported. We are strong. The Jews are not going anywhere.’ ”

Temple Emanuel has raised approximately $11,000 “with very little ask” that will go toward the purchase of security cameras for the building.

Holzer was nabbed in an FBI sting operation that negated his heinous plans to blow up the temple, spiritual home to 35 families, and also poison its water system.

Undercover agents, posing as white supremacists, provided two fake pipe bombs and 14 sticks of useless dynamite to Holzer, who was arrested in a Pueblo motel.

“I want something that tells them they are not welcome in this town,” he allegedly told the agents. “Better get the (expletive) out, otherwise people will die.”

Becker says the Temple Emanuel congregation is indebted to the FBI and law enforcement for providing invaluable security measures during and in the wake of the threat.

The Pueblo Police Dept. now posts additional patrol cars at the synagogue every Friday, whether for services or other events. “There’s always something going on then,” she says.

“For the most part I think we do feel safer,” Becker says, “but we are also a little cautious, suspicious, of anyone we don’t know who’s here alone.”

A snowstorm hampered the Southern Colorado Solidarity service that Temple Emanuel held last Shabbat.

“Colorado Springs Rabbis Jay Sherwood of Temple Shalom and Iah Pillsbury of Beit Torah were unable to drive here. But we still had a lovely turnout.

“People came from all over: Denver, Albuquerque, NM, Canon City, a couple from Colorado Springs, and Rabbi Rob Lennick, executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico. It was wonderful.”

The powerful support for Temple Emanuel has transcended local, state and international borders due to coverage on CNN, “Today,” in The New York Times and other venues.

“Word just gets around,” Becker says. “I’ve heard from my friends in Israel, across the country and Canada; I get Facebook requests to ‘friend’ me from Asia and Australia.”

The fact that Holzer’s plot was thwarted is the main source of joy.

“No one was harmed,” Becker says. “We are blessed to have our lovely temple, and our congregation.”

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Senior Writer | [email protected]

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