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Safe Shuls

It’s not too late to watch a security webinar—or read our summary

 
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Synagogues need to take responsibility for their security, said retired New York Police Department detective Mordecai Dzikansky, who served as the NYPD’s liaison with the Israeli police in the aftermath of 9/11.

“If you are relying solely on police you’re leaving yourself vulnerable,” Dzikansky said in an interview.

Dzikansky spoke with the Jewish Standard after taking part in a webinar organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York which aimed to inform synagogue leaders across the country about security procedures and safety approaching the High Holy Days.

The webinar is available for viewing at http://bit.ly/js-sec.

Other presenters included Douglas Smith, who is the assistant secretary for the private sector of the Department of Homeland Security, and David Pollock, associate executive director of the New York JCRC.

“The fact that more people than usual go to synagogues at the High Holy Days makes synagogues especially attractive targets to terrorists at that time,” said Pollack.

Over 60 participants from over 55 congregations tuned in to the webinar, according to Judah Isaacs, director of community engagement for the Orthodox Union, which publicized the webinar.

“As we approach High Holy Days we want to be sure everyone is vigilant,” Isaacs said. “The OU has an initiative we call ‘Safe Homes, Safe Schools, Safe Shuls.’ Safety is the number one concern for us. We take care of our own selves and institutions.”

Dzikansky recommended that synagogues hire off-duty police to stand out front in uniform and assist synagogue leaders in searching unfamiliar people, he said.

“[Ideally] you have private security and a member of the congregation there to streamline situations so you don’t waste time on people you know,” he said. “You can be friendly, you can do it with a smile, but do not let anyone [unfamiliar] into the building without questioning and searching them.”

In the webinar, Pollock stated, “Under U.S. law, you can regulate who can come in and out of your synagogue. If someone seems suspicious, you can refuse them entry.”

In the absence of professional security, Dzikansky recommends synagogues station members of the congregation out front on their own. It is legal and important for synagogue members to deny entry to anyone suspicious who will not submit to having his or her belongings searched, Dzikansky said.

Attention also should be paid to unusual objects, or unknown cars, in the vicinity, and congregants should immediately notify police about anything suspicious. Synagogue leaders and other members should be briefed on the location of charged cell phones “in even the most Orthodox shul” and immediately call police in case of emergency or anything suspicious.

He added that most terrorists do surveillance and pick a target based on perceived vulnerability.

“It is very critical that you look like a hard target when you have individuals approaching your facility and doing surveillance,” he said.

In the webinar, one participant asked whether synagogues should allow worshipers who are also trained security personnel or law enforcement officers to bring their weapons to shul. Dzikansky said he would not categorically oppose allowing members who are licensed to carry concealed weapons to bring their weapons to synagogue. He cautioned, however, that they should be discreet and other members should not be aware they are armed.

Other topics raised in the webinar included the value of establishing a plan for synagogue evacuation in case of an emergency and making congregants aware of all exits to facilitate emergency evacuation.

 

More on: Safe Shuls

 
 
 

State offers security seminar for local institutions

A pre-Rosh Hashanah “security briefing and security awareness program” sponsored by the office of Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness brought more than 70 representatives of area synagogues and Jewish organizations to the Passaic County Police Academy in Wayne last week.

The presentations stressed the importance of working with local law enforcement.

Detective Gil Breit, assistant counterterrorism coordinator for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, gave the keynote presentation. He focused on the need for Jewish institutions to work closely with public safety officials.

 
 

Advice from the Secure Community Network

 
 
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

Mordechai posted 25 Sep 2011 at 07:45 PM

“In the webinar, one participant asked whether synagogues should allow worshipers who are also trained security personnel or law enforcement officers to bring their weapons to shul.”  Why only trained security personnel or law enforcement officers?  What about licensed and trained private citizens.  Forty states in this country have shall issue concealed carry laws which mandate the issuance of a concealed carry permit to anyone who passes a background check.  Most states also have training requirements.  Such a person is as capable as defending themselves and their community as is an off-duty police officer or hired armed security guard.  This is vastly preferrable to the advice given by the ADL in their synagogue security guide.  What’s their advice if an armed intruder enters a synagogue?  Run and hide (and keep praying, I guess).  Unfortunately, in states like NJ and NY, it is impossible—for now—for ordinary, law abiding, trained citizens to obtain a concealed carry permit.  That needs to and eventually will change.

 

A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.

 

Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

 

Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

 
 
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