Thinking High Holiday Security & Preparedness
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas led to disturbing attacks on Jewish institutions and individuals abroad. While there are no specific threats to U.S. Jewish institutions or individuals — out of an abundance of caution — JCRC-NY recommends that Jewish institutions increase their levels of vigilance. This is especially true during the High Holidays, when people know that Jews congregate.
- High Holiday-specific resources:
- JCRC-NY High Holiday Security Thinkplate®: 2014
- Houses of Worship & the High Holidays, from Emergency Planning: Disaster and Crisis Response Systems for Jewish Organizations (published by Jewish Federations of North America, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and JCRC-NY). Reading this overview will help your congregation to make the best use of the template.
- ADL’s Security Recommendations for the High Holidays
- Access control considerations during High Holiday services (PDF)
As a general rule, synagogues should:
- Create a culture of security. Institutions shouldn’t merely subcontract security. Even buildings with well-trained security personnel should expect that staff and constituencies should be part of the security equation. Everyone should have heightened vigilance in times like these. For tips on security awareness, click here and the ADL’s Guide to Detecting Surveillance of Jewish Institutions and 18 Best Practices for Jewish Institutional Security.
- Be in contact with your local police. Someone (or more than one) should have ongoing personal relationships with key police personnel. They should know you, your building and your organizational activities:
- Discuss your security procedures with them and ask them for suggestions for improvement.
- Inform them of the dates and times of your services, regular events and special events.
- Police coverage on the High Holidays
- Special attention is given to a synagogue based on an assessment of the current threat balanced by the availability of resources. In some jurisdictions it is a longstanding practice to assign police personnel to synagogues during services. In others, patrol cars are directed to visit synagogues at regular intervals. Discuss your situation with local police officials as soon as possible so that they have time to make their assessment and to secure the resources that they need to protect you. They will be in contact with federal, state and county officials, as well as the regional fusion center to make their assessment. They also factor in local incidents.
- In some instances the traffic conditions surrounding services warrant police attention and officers will be assigned.
- Some police departments allow private parties to hire uniformed officers for events. For more information click on our contact form here and someone will get back to you.
- Revisit and review your security plans and procedures.
- Access control. Did you hear the one about a pro-Israel organization visited by a middle-aged, well-dressed woman saying that she wanted to make a contribution? They opened the door for her and a dozen prtad in. Nine of the invaders were arrested. Are you vulnerable to such antics? Take the time to review your access control procedures. For more information and guidance see JCRC-NY’s Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures (PDF).
- Bomb threats. Review your bomb threat procedures and make sure that your staffers (especially those who answer the phones) know what is expected of them. For a range of resources from top agencies, including the FBI and the DHS guidance click here.
- Suspicious packages. Is your staff aware that they should be on the lookout for suspicious packages? For USPS guidance click here.
- Active shooters. See both quick pocket-card and in-depth resources from DHS, FBI and other agencies here.
- Demonstrators. Refer to ADL’s resource on Dealing with Protesters at Jewish Institutions, in order to be prepared for the possibility of demonstrations at upcoming events.
- Questions? Comments? Click here to send questions, comments and suggestions or are interested in a webinar or conference call on High Holiday security.
- Assess your cybersecurity. Over the past month the websites of several Jewish-affiliated organizations were hacked. Our adversaries may use the High Holidays to attempt other cyber-invasions. Protect your organization. See Cybersecurity for Jewish organizations 101: an update and how to have inexpensive and effective backup and other plans at Resources to prepare your organization’s technology for a disaster.