Category Archive: High Holidays

Sukkahs in the wind

Please distribute on blogs and synagogue/community listserves.

NYC Emergency Management (NYCEM) is now advising New Yorkers to prepare for ongoing sustained winds upwards of 30mph with wind gusts in excess of 70mph. Most Succoth, especially in open areas or experiencing sustained gusts, are not built for such conditions.

The Rabbinical Council of America is distributing this document, developed by Rabbi Kenneth Brander with profound thanks to Rav Hershel Schachter, shlita for his guidance. The relevant portion of the document follows:

Sukkot, Shemeni Atzeret & Simchat HaTorah

  •  If the weather forecast is for winds of over 40 mph there is a serious danger that the sukkah will become flying debris which can create dangerous projectiles and should be dismantled before Shabbat/Yom Tov.
  • If there is a concern of schach flying around (in winds that are less than 40 mph winds) then the schach can be tied down even with plastic cable ties.
  • If schach needs to be replaced or tied down on the sukkah on Shabbat or Yom Tov in can be done by a Gentile.
  • If there is concern about going to shul on Simchat Torah morning – Vezot ha’Berakha can be read on the night of Simchat Torah in five aliyot. Alternatively should the storm pass by Simchat Torah afternoon then hakafot and torah reading can be read at an early mincha on Simchat Torah.

Of course, individuals and organizations should consult with their appropriate halachic authorities. Some additional tips:

  • Secure your Sukkah to fixed objects such as posts or fencing. Unsecured bamboo mats can become airborne, leading to injuries and property damage. Unsecured walls (either canvas or plywood) are essentially sails and could collapse and/or blow away. This is already happening in the Washington, DC area.
  • Balconies. Succoth built on balconies on higher floors are subject to higher winds.
  • There is a likelihood of blackouts during the storm. See the RCA document here for additional guidance. The source document with citations can be found here.
  • Drying. If you do take down and secure your Sukkah over the next few days, the materials and skhakh are likely to be wet. To avoid mold, be sure to thoroughly dry everything after Sukkoth before you store it. (HT Dori Zofan).

Thanks to NYCEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito and Assistant Commissioner Ira Tannenbaum for their ongoing leadership and concern. Here is the NYCEM guidance:

The National Weather Service forecast for the next several days includes wind speeds that are predicted to be between 15 and 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 40 mph at times. High winds can down trees and power lines, blow out windows, blow down signs, cause flying debris, and structural collapse. Individuals who have constructed a Succah for the holiday should take appropriate actions to secure the structure and roofing to prevent damage or injury from flying debris.

Ira Tannenbaum
Assistant Commissioner, Public/Private Initiatives
New York City Emergency Management
165 Cadman Plaza East
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Thinking High Holiday Security & Preparedness

Posted on August 22, 2014

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.

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.

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Syria: potential repercussions

The escalating drumbeat for military action naturally leads to questions about possible terrorism here in New York. Note: as of today there are no specific, credible threats against New York or the Jewish community. Nevertheless, all Jewish organizations should review their security and emergency preparedness plans to ensure that they are up-to-date and that they can be readily implemented. Some specifics:

High Holidays

If you are an organizations hosting High Holiday services and/or programs you should:

  1. Notify your local police about all planned services and programs. Discuss the number of people expected at each service and ask them for any suggestions that could improve your security and emergency preparedness plans.
  2. Review your security and emergency preparedness measures, especially access control, evacuation and lockdowns. Meet with your staff and volunteers and make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what to do. Check the “High Holidays” category for more suggestions..

Potential for Cyberattacks

Last week the Syrian Electronic Army compromised the New York Times website and others. Western financial institutions are also targetted by others. We all should review our own cybersecurity because, in the past, anti-Israel hackers have attacked Jewish-related sites. See JCRC’s Cybersecurity Resources.

This week the FBI distributed the following:

  • The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-regime hacker group that emerged during Syrian antigovernment protests in 2011, has been compromising high-profile media outlets in an effort to spread proregime propaganda. The SEA’s primary capabilities include spearphishing, Web defacements, and hijacking social media accounts to spread propaganda. Over the past several months, the SEA has been highly effective in compromising multiple high-profile media outlets.
  • The SEA has recently compromised high profile media Web sites through a new tactic of hacking third party networks – including a Domain Name System (DNS) registrar and a content recommendation website.
  • In April 2013, the SEA compromised the Twitter feed of the Associated Press, posting a false story that President Obama was injured, causing in a brief drop in the stock market.
  • In addition to Syrian hackers, groups or individuals sympathetic to the SEA may also be observed participating in CNO efforts against US Web sites and networks.
  • Please maintain heightened awareness of your network traffic and take appropriate steps to maintain your network security. If you detect anomalous or malicious traffic or network behavior, please contact your local FBI Cyber Task Force or the FBI CyWatch (855) 292-3937 immediately.

Defending Against Hacktivism

In general, hacktivism cyber attacks may result in denial of service, Web site defacements, and the compromise of sensitive information which may lead to harassment and identify theft. Although the specific OpUSA claims referenced above speak specifically to DDoS attacks, precautionary measures to mitigate a range of potential hacktivism threats include:

  • Implement a data back-up and recovery plan to maintain copies of sensitive or proprietary data in a separate and secure location. Backup copies of sensitive data should not be readily accessible from local networks. 
  • Have a DDoS mitigation strategy ready ahead of time and keep logs of any potential attacks.
  • Scrutinize links contained in e-mail attachments.
  • Regularly mirror and maintain an image of critical system files.
  • Encrypt and secure sensitive information.
  • Use strong passwords, implement a schedule for changing passwords frequently and do not reuse passwords for multiple accounts.
  • Enable network monitoring and logging where feasible.
  • Be aware of social engineering tactics aimed at obtaining sensitive information.
  • Securely eliminate sensitive files and data from hard drives when no longer needed or required.
  • Establish a relationship with local law enforcement and participate in IT information sharing groups for early warnings of threats.

Unrest overseas: security and emergency planning for the High Holidays

Posted on August 29, 2013

International terror alerts and the possibility of U.S. military action in the Middle East remind us that we should devote extra attention to security and emergency planning.  Here are important resources to help make the High Holiday season meaningful, safe and secure.

Check out guidance from the JCRC-NY’s and the ADL:

Is Rosh Hashanah really early this year?

Posted on August 06, 2013

From the collection of the Center of Jewish History via the JTA.

No, it’s always exactly as scheduled. Rosh Chodesh Elul signals that the High Holidays are soon upon us and the international terror alerts remind us that we should devote extra attention to security and emergency planning.  Here are important resources to help make the High Holiday season meaningful, safe and secure:

  1. Police briefingsThe NYPD (Tuesday, August 27, 2013) and Nassau County Police (Wednesday, August 28th) will host briefings for the Jewish community. Both departments will brief the community on their assessments of the security environment. The meetings are also an important opportunity for community and police leaders to meet and shmooze. Click here for more information and to RSVP to either of the meetings.
  2. Review the ADL’s Security Recommendations for the High Holidays.
  3. Check out the JCRC-NY’s presentations on High Holiday access control and preparing for the unexpected.
    1. Houses of Worship and the High Holidays (PDF excerpt from Emergency Planning: Disaster and Crisis Response Systems for Jewish Organizations) The High Holidays are a special challenge for synagogues. Find tips for security and emergency planning here.
    2. High Holidays Security and Emergency Preparedness Thinkplate
    3. Access control considerations during high holiday services” (PDF) Dov Horwitz, Security Specialist, JCRC-NY
    4. 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
    5. Planning for the unexpected: High Holiday edition” (PDF) David Pollock, JCRC-NY
    6. View a video transcript of these presentations.

Police briefings. The NYPD and Nassau County Police will host briefings for the Jewish community. Both departments will brief the community on their assessments of the security environment. The meetings are also an important opportunity for community and police leaders to meet and shmooze.

    1. The NYPD High Holiday Security Briefing with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is scheduled for  Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 11 AM  (refreshments will be available at 10 AM) at One Police Plaza. RSVP’s are required. Email your reservation to Sgt. Richard Taylor in the Office of the Chief of Community Affairs by clicking here.
    2. Note time change: The Nassau County Police Department’s briefing with Police Commissioner Thomas Dale is scheduled for Wednesday, August 28th at 2 PM in the Donald F. Kane Auditorium of Police Headquarters, 1490 Franklin Avenue, Mineola. Email your reservation by clicking here.