Category Archive: High Holidays

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.

NYPD gives “special attention” to synagogues; ADL says embassy violence demands increased vigilence

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Office of the Chief of Community Affairs

Informational: The High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is translated as “head of the year” and is the beginning of the Jewish New Year. This is considered to be a time of devotion and prayer to the Almighty to decree a long, spiritually enriching life, as well as good health and prosperity to all. Rosh Hashanah will be observed this year from sunset, Sunday, September 16th through sundown, Tuesday, September 18th. During this time period, the Jewish religion strictly prohibits many common day activities such as going to work, writing, turning lights on or off, riding in a car, carrying a cell phone and other items such as a driver’s license and credit cards and touching money.

There will be an increase of foot traffic in Jewish neighborhoods during these days as family and friends are commonly invited to others to participate in festive meals. The manner of dress for males during Rosh Hashanah may include a black hat, a long black coat (even in hot weather), and a white prayer shawl with strings attached to the corners. Females may wear expensive jewelry and will be traditionally dressed in clothing of a modest nature.

Synagogues will have prayer services three times each day. Special attention should be given to every synagogue, especially during times of prayer service. Because prayer service times vary with each different congregation, it is important to be in contact with clergy liaisons and other community leaders in order to determine prayer service times for each individual synagogue.


Anti-Defamation League


September 12, 2012

Today’s headlines from Libya and Egypt, where American embassies were attacked, suggest a need for increased vigilance in advance of and during the High Holidays. The murder of the American Ambassador to Libya and three of his colleagues in Benghazi may have been planned as revenge for the recent killing of a high-ranking al-Qaeda leader and timed to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. There have also been reports of protests in both Benghazi and Cairo responding to a virulently anti-Muslim video, “Innocence of Muslims,” being promoted on YouTube. The trailer for this video portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a child-molester, and homosexual and a philanderer, and some stories are linking the video to an Israeli-American. Regardless of what triggered the anti-American violence in Libya and Egypt, and who produced the highly offensive video (about which questions are still circulating), the timing of these events and the possibility that they may incite others to violence prompts us to recommend extra precautions.

It is important to emphasize that ADL does not currently have any information regarding a specific threat to any Jewish institution. Nevertheless, we recommend the following action steps – including specific priorities for the high holidays.

Action Steps:

  • Keep your eyes and ears open for anything unusual or suspicious and call law enforcement immediately if you come across something. Unusual behavior, unwarranted interest in your facility (including unusual traffic patterns), suspicious or unattended packages and strange devices should be promptly reported to the police or security personnel. Advise staff and volunteers to do the same. See ADL’s Guide to Detecting Surveillance of Jewish Institutions.
  • Ensure that staff members, including newly hired personnel, and all volunteers know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Review and practice security procedures. In particular, review with all personnel their role in security. Ensure that your institution’s rules and procedures dealing with who gets into your facility are sufficient and enforced (access control).
  • Make sure to use the security devices you have in place and that access controls are being used properly. For example, ensure that communications equipment and video cameras are working and properly used.
  • Renew/establish relationships with local law enforcement and discuss security. If you have not established personal relationships with key police personnel, set up a meeting to do so.
  • Trust your instincts. If something strikes you as being out of place or problematic, call law enforcement immediately.

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 of Jewish Institutions.
  • 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.

You may refer to ADL’s security manual, Protecting Your Institution, for additional information at ADL’s security website:

Please do not hesitate to contact this office with questions or for further assistance.