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Security/Emergency Information

It’s Elul — planning security for the High Holidays

Posted on August 27, 2012

As the High Holidays approach, organizations should be refining their security arrangements, along with their other planning obligations. Those responsible for synagogue security are not alone. Some important resources follow:

  1. Attend the NYPD High Holiday Security Briefing with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly at One Police Plaza on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 11AM. RSVP’s are required. Email your reservation to Sgt. Richard Taylor in the Office of the Chief of Community Affairs by clicking here. See the information about the Nassau County Police Department’s meeting to discuss its High Holiday Policing Strategies at http://www.facebook.com/JCRCLI.
  2. Review the ADL Security Recommendations for the High Holidays below.
  3. Check out the JCRC-NY’s presentations on High Holiday access control and preparing for the unexpected below the ADL recommendations.


Good security isn’t only about cameras or locks. It’s about people being aware of what’s going on around them. It’s about careful planning. It’s about building relationships with your local police. It requires a commitment from an institution’s management and constituency to make security a part of an institution’s culture. Make security part of your culture year-round, and be especially vigilant in preparing staff and lay leaders and members for the High Holidays.

  • Advise local law enforcement of High Holy Day schedules and special events. In particular, communicate with the police commander of the jurisdiction in which your institution is located.
  • Ensure that ushers understand that they play a critical role in security matters (even where there is security staff), as they are often used to control access to the sanctuary and are in a position to spot trouble early.
  • Ensure that ushers are familiar with suspicious activity indicators, and encourage them to promptly report anything suspicious to the police or security personnel. Review ADL’s Guide to Detecting Surveillance at Jewish Institutions.
  • A facility should have as few entry points as possible (ideally one), so that no one is able to enter your facility without being greeted and observed. Be sure to obey all fire codes and ensure adequate routes for exiting the building.
  • Establish procedures for keeping people out of your institution who do not belong. It is important to establish policies and procedures well ahead of time so that ushers and others who are reacting to developing situations know how to respond according to pre-determined rules.
  • If your institution has hired a police officer or security guard, provide them with specific instructions and identify someone to be their primary contact if they have questions (such as an usher captain).
  • Encourage staff, leadership, and constituents to trust their instincts if they come across someone or something suspicious.
  • Pre-event publicity for upcoming events should be reviewed in light of security. Potential gains in audience numbers must be weighed against the security concerns created through different types of publicity.
  • Ensure that existing safety devices (video cameras, lights, walkie talkies, etc.) are in good working condition.

This checklist is compiled from ADL’s comprehensive security manual Protecting Your Jewish Institution, which can be found at www.adl.org/security. Please also contact your regional ADL office for year-round security awareness training or to sign up to receive ADL’s security bulletins and alerts.

For more information check out these JCRC-NY products:

  • “Access control considerations during high holiday services” (PDF) Dov Horwitz, Security Specialist, JCRC-NY
  •  “Tips on detecting hostile surveillance” (PDF) Paul DeMatties, Senior Advisor on Corporate Security Programs and Director of the Counter-Terrorism Assessment Program, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • “Planning for the unexpected: High Holiday edition” (PDF) David Pollock, JCRC-NY
  • View a video transcript of these presentations.
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