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Category Archive: Synagogue Security

Bomb threats/hoaxes: are you ready?

As reported in the JTA Daily Briefing, 19 Jewish organizations (mostly JCC’s) received an email threat yesterday (Sunday) morning. The threat alleged that the writer was concerned about an immigration issue and threatened to remotely detonate bombs if a certain demand was not met. The Community Security Initiative (a joint program of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY) immediately communicated with our local and federal partners. The consensus was that the threat was not credible.

Do you have a threat procedure? Do you regularly review your procedures and/or drill? Should we be worried?

At this time the experts conclude that incidents referencing threats against schools, Jewish facilities and businesses are not likely t0 represent a credible terrorist threat for two reasons:

  1. terrorists’ rarely provide operational insight into their planning, and
  2. the fact that nearly all hoaxes in the United States are conducted by criminal actors or those instigating a nuisance prank.

Consider yesterday’s incidents to be a drill

Now is a good time to review your threat protocols. Of course you call 911, but are the right people authorized to do so. Who else needs to be notified? Should you evacuate? Who makes the decision? Learn more about bomb threats and more on our dedicated webpage: www.jcrcny.org/bomb

Evacuations can be tricky. Review our post, To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question. Triggering an evacuation could be an effective part of an active threat plan, with an attacker waiting outside to shoot, stab, bomb or ram those fleeing the building.

Bottom line. Consider identifying a relatively safe haven within your building (e.g., a gym or auditorium). Create a protocol to ensure that the safe haven in inspected every day to confirm that there are no suspicious objects present. If a threat is delivered, the safe haven can be quickly checked and the building occupants can temporarily be moved into that room. After the police arrive, they should check the immediate surroundings for possible threats before the people are allowed to exit.

Of course, there’s an old Army saying (sometimes attributed to Gen. Eisenhower) that, “Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.” May we never need to implement those plans.

 

Recent Propaganda Releases by ISIS and Al-Qa’ida Promote Intensified Attacks by Supporters in the West

This assessment from NYPD has information that can be used to support both the federal and New York State grant applications. We highlighted issues concerning the Jewish community.


Open Source Assessment/February 10, 2020

Two recent extremist propaganda releases disseminated by ISIS’s al-Furqan Media and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Al-Malahem Media called on Salafi-jihadist supporters to intensify attacks as part of a retaliatory campaign of violence against the West, which may resonate with homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) based in the U.S. Both media campaigns referenced a broad variety of tactics, with ISIS’s statement promoting the use of conventional and chemical weapons, and AQAP’s message promoting simple, low-tech methods, as well as cyberwarfare campaigns.

  • While both propaganda statements called for an escalation in attack efforts, ISIS’s propaganda release notably emphasized a “new phase” geared specifically towards targeting Israeli and Jewish interests. ISIS previously referenced chemical weapons tactics in numerous propaganda graphics, demonstrating the group’s persistent support and interest in this attack method.  While the NYPD is not aware of any credible, active, or specific threats at this time, this statement, coupled with an already heightened threat environment, may serve as a catalyst for increased violence against Jewish communities.
  • Additionally, AQAP’s latest propaganda release may potentially have a stronger resonance with al-Qa’ida-aligned HVEs in the West following the recently confirmed death of Qasim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, who was killed in a targeted U.S. counterterrorism operation in Yemen.
  • On January 27, 2020, ISIS’s official media apparatus published a 37-minute Arabic-language audio statement attributed to its new spokesperson, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, marking his second speech since the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir in separate U.S. counterterrorism operations. While much of the statement—titled “God Destroyed Them and a Similar Fate Awaits the Disbelievers”—revisited ISIS’s narrative of survivability and endurance despite strategic setbacks, al-Qurayshi notably declared war on Israel, and called for ISIS supporters to broadly intensify their attack efforts worldwide.
  •  Throughout the speech, al-Qurayshi claimed that U.S. narratives about ISIS’s defeat in the Middle East are false and that the U.S. has historically been unable to defeat its adversaries, specifically referring to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. He asserted that ISIS will persist despite al-Baghdadi’s death. The statement appears to have been recorded in recent weeks, as it also referenced the death of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in early January 2020.
  • After congratulating ISIS militants for waging a retaliatory campaign of violence in response to the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir, al-Qurayshi encouraged supporters to continue the revenge efforts by increasing the frequency of attacks. This specific statement could potentially resonate with lone offenders as a call to arms from core ISIS leadership.
  • Al-Qurayshi announced the beginning of a new stage for ISIS aimed at reclaiming Jerusalem. He specifically urged ISIS affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula and Syria to turn Israeli “settlements and markets into a proving ground for your rockets and chemical weapons.” He also ordered Muslims to thwart the U.S. peace plan referred to as the “Deal of the Century,” and implored Palestinians and Muslims worldwide to target Jews. While previous ISIS messaging also emphasized the targeting of Jewish and Israeli interests in an effort to inspire attacks by established ISIS affiliates and lone offender supporters, the emphasis on these targets in this audio message likely coincides with the latest proposed U.S. peace plan for the Middle East.
  • On February 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Qasim al-Rimi, the emir of AQAP and potential heir to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a U.S. military counterterrorism operation. Al-Rimi was previously featured in a propaganda video disseminated by AQAP on February 2 that claimed responsibility for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, praised global al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, and emphasized the importance of continued retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests. Given al-Rimi’s death, his latest message urging lone offender attacks against the U.S. may also catalyze HVEs to conduct retaliatory attacks.
  • AQAP’s propaganda video featured Qasim al-Rimi, often pairing his image with other al-Qa’ida ideologues. He declared that AQAP was responsible for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola which was conducted by Saudi aviation student Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, who he claimed was a sleeper agent for AQAP. Similar to the retaliatory narrative in past AQAP propaganda messages, he stated that the shooting was in revenge for crimes committed by the U.S. across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Additionally, on February 4, the al-Qa’ida-affiliated al-Shabaab echoed this narrative by congratulating AQAP for its role in the Pensacola attack and encouraged continued lone offender operations in the West.
  • Al-Rimi connected the Pensacola shooting to other al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, stating that it was part of a series of global attacks. He compared al-Shamrani to the group’s other perceived “heroes,” such as Nidal Malik Hassan, the November 2019 Fort Hood shooter, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who orchestrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, in a likely attempt to encourage similar operations by HVEs in the West.
  • Most significantly, al-Rimi explicitly called for lone offender attacks in the U.S and told supporters to make sure their “chief concern” is “America.” He urged students, journalists, doctors, engineers, merchants, workers, Arab and non-Arabs to use low-tech, simple tactics, including vehicle ramming, firearms, and explosives. He also encourages viewers to consult AQAP’s Inspire magazine for tactical guidance.

IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW YORK CITY

There is currently no direct, credible or specific threat to New York City following these recent propaganda releases by ISIS and AQAP media entities; however, ISIS’s calls for attacks against Jewish communities highlights the importance of vigilance for suspicious activity indicators at similar locations, houses of worship, and Jewish faith community gatherings throughout the five boroughs. In recent months, authorities have disrupted numerous plots by malicious actors from across the violent extremist ideological spectrum who espoused anti-Semitic views and targeted the Jewish community.

Security personnel are advised to be on alert for suspicious behavior that could indicate pre-operational surveillance for an attack. Such behavior could include individuals taking photographs of security procedures in place, and asking probing questions of security/law enforcement officers stationed outside such locations.

Information sharing and prompt reporting of suspicious behavior indicators between the public, private-sector security personnel, faith community leaders, and law enforcement authorities remains vital to the deterrence, detection, and disruption of terrorist activity and the prevention of attacks.

If You See Something, Say Something – 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233)

New concerns from ISIS-inspired lone wolves

According to some analysts, the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has the potential for violent reactions by United States-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs). While there is no specific threat to the Jewish community or to the New York area, JCRC-NY recommends that Jewish institutions maintain heightened vigilance.

In a recent op-ed in the NY Daily News (Why ISIS remains far from finished: A warning from two leading counterterrorism officials), Ray Kelly and Mitch Silber observed, “The ISIS threat to the U.S. early on was mainly based on its ability, through cutting-edge use of social media, to radicalize and mobilize Americans to either want to join ISIS as a foreign fighter (with the latent threat to return to attack the U.S.) or to plot attacks at home on their own.”

This is a good time to review your facility’s security protocols to ensure that they reflect the current need for heightened vigilance. We suggest that you download JCCA’s Security Readiness:A Framework for Security at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), YM and YWHAs, and Camps. The publication is a valuable tool for all kinds of organizations and the chapter on a “Security Escalation Plan” on pp. 42ff. features six indicators that should cause you to consider escalating security and the included checklist is a helpful template to build an effective response.

Keep safe.

DHS Active Shooter Training | Nov 15

DHS CISA Region-II Training & Exercise Coordinator, cordially invites you to participate in a one-day active shooter security workshop. Be advised Registration closes 11/13/2019 at 12:00 pm. Link is provided on the flyer and here    https://www.govevents.com/details/31696/dhs-active-shooter-preparedness-workshop--new-york-ny/

November 15th, 2019 (8:30am – 4:00pm)
Pace University, New York City Campus
One Pace Plaza (Student Center West)
New York, NY 10038

Preparing all of your constituencies for a potential active shooter incident is an integral component of an organization’s incident response planning. Because active shooter incidents are unpredictable and evolve quickly, preparing for and knowing what to do in an active shooter situation can be the difference between life and death. Every second counts.

A Unique Training Opportunity

Pace University and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, are hosting a one-day security workshop to enhance awareness of, and response to, an active shooter event:

  • Educating participants on the history of active shooter events.
  • Describing common behavior, conditions, and situations associated with active shooters.
  • Fostering communication between critical infrastructure owners and operators and local emergency response teams.  This course includes discussions of interoperability, communications protocols, and best practices for planning, preparedness, and response.

Who Should Participate?

This event is open to:

  • Organization and corporate and facility security professionals and leaders from the private and public sectors
  • Supervisory first responders
  • Human resource managers
  • Community response officials
  • Homeland security representatives

Registration

  • Registration for this event is free; please click here to register.
  • Registration closes 11/13/2019 at 12:00 pm (EDT).

Please see attached flyer and invitation for more details on this workshop.  We appreciate your engagement in this process; your participation will enhance and contribute significantly to building your organization’s incident response plans.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.

Very Respectfully,

Stephen Allyn

Region-II Training & Exercise Coordinator (RTEC)
Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Northeast & Caribbean NY~NJ~PR~USVI
Cell: (917) 710-4764 Stephen.Allyn@hq.dhs.gov
Operation Desert Storm – Iraqi Freedom – Enduring Freedom

Security: High Holidays 5780

Thinking High Holiday Security & Preparedness

After a year that included the horrible events of Pittsburgh and Poway, 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. Synagogues should review this document, ADL’s Security Recommendations For the High Holidays or SCN’s High Holy Days Security Planning. For more information click to our contact form here and someone will get back to you.

Your services are usually associated with larger than normal crowds and could be an attractive target for terrorism and other crimes. The single, most important step that congregations should consider: screen all attendees before they enter your premises. Your screeners (who might be equipped with a “panic button” to be used if there’s an emergency) may assess those with valid, High Holiday tickets as “pre-screened” (see “Ticket sales” below) so that+ any others merit a higher level of scrutiny. Trained guards, staff, or volunteers should conduct screening. Consider bag checks.

Hm-m-m-m-m. Any special planning for severe weather?

Here are some additional suggestions:

  • Create a culture of security. Institutions should not 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, Indicators of Terrorist Activity from the NYPD and/or the ADL’s Guide to Detecting Surveillance at Jewish Institutions.
  • Connect 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.
    • 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 assessments and to secure the resources that they need to protect you.
    • In some instances, the traffic conditions surrounding services warrant police attention.
  • Private security. Some police departments allow private parties to hire off-duty officers in uniform for events (in NYC, contact the Paid Detail Unit). Others use other off-duty officers (hired privately or through a security firm), retired officers or hire private security guards.
    • Security guards must be trained in security awareness, understand your environment, be in harmony with your organization’s culture and be customer-service-oriented. You must clearly detail what is expected of your security guards, including specific duties, inspection of your facilities and your access control policy. (See more at the JCCA Security Readiness Manual, pp. 50 ff.)
    • Check that your security firm is appropriately insured and ask for a Certificate of Insurance naming your synagogue as an additional named insured.
  • 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 protesters rushed 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).
    • Active shooters. Have a plan and train your staff and key volunteers on its implementation. See JCRC’s dedicated active shooter webpage here.
    • 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.
    • Train your staff and key volunteers. It might not be practical to have evacuation/active shooter drills for your entire congregation before the holidays, but do conduct drills for your staff and key volunteers (e.g., ushers, area captains) as soon as possible. Get their feedback on your plans and update the plans as necessary.
    • Suspicious packages. Is your staff aware that they should be on the lookout for suspicious packages? For USPS guidance click here.
  • Assess your cybersecurity. Over the past month the websites of several Jewish-affiliated organizations were hacked. 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.
  • Questions? Click here to send questions, comments and suggestions.

Click here for an expanded PDF version of the JCRC-NY High Holiday Planning Thinkplate 2019.