Category Archive: Synagogue Security

Details of May 11th Terror Arrests

Posted on May 13, 2011

This afternoon Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference to announce the arrest of two suspects accused of plotting to bomb a major synagogue in Manhattan. Michael Miller and David Pollock of the JCRC were invited and attended. Watch the video of the press conference in low or high bandwidth.

Mayor Bloomberg explained in his opening remarks:

“Yesterday, detectives from the NYPD arrested two men who said they wanted to destroy a major synagogue in Manhattan, and then purchased several weapons and a hand grenade from an undercover officer.

“Fortunately, long before their aspirations could take hold, New York City police officers were watching them and were in a position to take them into custody, before they could maim and murder innocent New Yorkers.

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s full remarks here.

Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohamed Mamdouh, 20, are charged with multiple felony counts and hate crimes carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. In the course of the investigation Mr. Ferhani expressed clear anti-Semitism and asked an undercover officer whether he would join him in a plan to bomb a synagogue.

Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, Jr., noted:

“The defendants plotted and took concrete steps to bomb synagogues and kill Jewish New Y orkers as an act of terrorism” 

Read DA Vance’s statement here. Read the full criminal complaint providing more details here.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly described the police activities leading to the arrests and commended NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen and his team for their outstanding work. He also commented that:

“While there are no specific plots targeting New York City in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, this latest case reminds us that we must remain vigilant every day.

Read Commissioner Kelly’s account of the investigation here.

When the news of the arrests broke this morning the JCRC called for heightened vigilance and tighter access policies in a security alert to synagogues, yeshivot and other Jewish institutions. Read the recommendations here.

Organizations wishing to apply for Nonprofit Security Grants will find more information at www.jcrcny.org/securitygrants and can reserve for the JCRC May 23rd  Grants Webinar here. Find guidance and practical suggestions on how to increase the security of your Jewish institution at: www.jcrcny.org/securityresources.

JCRC commends Mayor, NYPD and DA in Terror Arrests

Posted on May 13, 2011
JCRC President Alan S. Jaffe and Executive Vice President & CEO Michael S. Miller said in a statement:
 The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) highly commends Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on the interception and arrest of two would-be terrorists from Queens, New York.

The New York Police Department performed expertly and heroically to prevent what would likely have been a vicious attack on a synagogue and members of the Jewish community resulting in death and destruction.  We hail their professionalism.

The JCRC-NY has emailed a Security Alert to hundreds of Jewish institutions in the metropolitan area urging the heightening of vigilance, the review of security precautions and the tightening of access systems.

Anti-semitism is a core component of militant-Jihadist ideology, and we call on the federal government to continue and increase its effective Nonprofit Security Grant Program to assist non-profits and religious institutions for target security hardening measures.

May 11th arrests reinforce need for heightened vigilance

Posted on May 13, 2011
Media outlets report the arrest of two individuals allegedly engaged in a terror plot in New York. See the NY Post article here. Law enforcement officials have not yet released details, but the article states: “One source said the man was trying to buy a handgun and talked about attacking a synagogue.” The NYPD is providing special attention to Jewish institutions.  We are grateful to the Mayor and the NYPD for their ongoing concern and efforts to keep all New Yorkers safe.
Harden your target now. The suspects have been described as “lone wolves.” The NYPD has cataloged over 50 cases of Americans who were radicalized to acts of violence and/or conspiracies over the last 30 months. This case may add to the total and those responsible for Jewish institutions should review their security precautions and introduce steps to ensure heightened awareness. The JCRC Security Resources webpage (www.jcrcny.org/securityresources) has guidelines and practical solutions on how to detect hostile surveillance and how to tighten your access systems.

Nonprofit Security Grant Program
. The US Department of Homeland Security’s 2011 Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) will be opening soon, allowing nonprofits to apply for up to $75,000 for target hardening measures such as security hardware and related training. The JCRC-NY will provide a free webinar training detailing the specifics of the grant and the application process. The webinar will be held on Monday, May 23rd, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm and is accessible from any internet capable computer. Please click http://bit.ly/JCRCNPSGWebinar to RSVP to receive login information. The JCRC-NY has hosted trainings annually and those following the JCRC-NY’s suggestions have had a high success rate. Get more information on the grants at the JCRC Security Grants website (http://www.jcrcny.org/securitygrants).

Ongoing threat.
In the aftermath of the killing of Bin Laden we should remember:

  • Anti-Semitism is a core component of militant-Jihadist ideology;
  • Anti-Semitism is a common tool in the radicalization process;
  • Jewish-affiliated targets may be preferable for less sophisticated terrorists; and
  • Jewish institutions may not be priority targets, but may become secondary targets or targets of convenience.

Feel free to contact David Pollock at (pollockd@jcrcny.org or 212. 983.4800, ext 132) or Dov Horwitz at (horwitzd@jcrcny.org or 212 983.4800, ext. 129) if you need more information.

More tips for package screening

Wall Street Journal, “Focus on Cargo Security Steps”, November 1, 2010

We continue to advise Jewish institutions to carefully screen their mail and packages. Be suspicious of any item coming from an unknown sender, especially unknown senders from overseas.

If you receive a package from an unknown sender and suspect that it could be an explosive device or it may contain a hazardous substance, do not disturb it, do not try to open it. Leave the room, close the door and call 911.  For specific steps see steps below.

The packages from Yemen discovered last week were designed to be hard to detect, even with an x-ray device. They prove that terrorist tactics are evolving and adapting to our security measures.

Although none of the following suggestions can definitively “rule-in” or “rule-out” a shipment, think about the following before opening any parcel:

  • Was the delivery from an expected shipper? Did your usual UPS driver deliver the package? Was the package from one of your regular vendors? (e.g., The NYPD received a call this week about a printer toner delivery to a Jewish institution. The caller was questioned and told that, because they had ordered the toner and it came from their usual office supply company, the shipment should not be considered suspicious.) Even if the package is from a regular supplier, did it come from the right address. Did it come from overseas?
  • Even without sophisticated equipment you can often tell when something is wrong. Use your “Just Doesn’t Look Right” instincts.
    • Was the package professionally packed? People who regularly order over the internet can probably answer this question.
    • Did someone tamper with this box? Does it appear that the package was opened and resealed? Are there additional layers of tape or different tape and/or fasteners? Are there cut marks on the packaging?
    • Was the package one of a dozen or all by itself?
  • Talk to your mail carrier, FedEx and UPS deliverer. They are your first line of defense and they probably know what kind of packages they deliver to your facility. Ask them about any briefings received about the screening done at their central facilities. Let them know, in a friendly way, that you are “counting on them”.

Recommended mail protocols (from previous post)
We recommend that organizations consider and adopt formal mail screening protocols, appropriate for their organization, staff and building. Your protocols should consider that a variety of hazards can arrive by mail, including explosives and toxins.

Your protocols may include steps, such as:

  1. Larger organizations should continue to screen and x-ray their mail. The USPS best practices for mail center security can be found here. It contains an excellent chapter, “Protect Your Business from Package Bombs and Bomb Threats”.
  2. All organizations, large and small, need to examine all mail and packages, whether delivered via the post office, UPS, FedEx, other carrier or hand delivered.
  3. Whether or not your organization has a mail room, designate and train specific people to screen your organization’s mail. Make sure that they know what your screening protocols are and know what to do if they find anything suspicious.
  4. Screen your mail in a separate room. That way if you find anything suspicious, you can easily isolate it.
  5. If you believe that an envelope or package contains a hazardous substance (e.g., an unknown white powder) instruct your screener to avoid inhaling the particulates, wash his/her hands with soap and room temperature water and isolate him/her in an adjoining, designated area away from the substance and await instructions from the first responders (This will take some planning. You don’t want anyone walking past the other employees and possibly contaminating them).
  6. If you deem an item to be suspicious: 
    • Do not open it.
    • Do not shake it.
    • Do not examine or empty the contents.
    • Leave the room.
    • Close the door.
    • Alert others in the area.
    • Call 911.
    • Shut down your HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) systems, if possible.
    • Consider whether you want to vacate your premises.

If you have a specific question about a package mailed to you, you can contact:

USPS POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE
PO BOX 555
NEW YORK NY 10116-0555
Phone : 877-876-2455
Thanks to MSA Security for many of these ideas.Check out more security, counterterrorism and emergency preparedness guidance at: www.jcrcny.org/securityresources.

View “Keeping your High Holiday Services Safe and Secure” webinar materials

Posted on August 23, 2010
  • “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

The presentation by NYPD Director of Intelligence Analysis Mitch Silber on the evolving al-Qaeda threat and its potential impact on the Jewish community is considered confidential by the NYPD and not available.

Related materials

  • JCRC Emergency and Secrurity Planning Tips for the High Holidays (PDF) The High Holidays are a special challenge for synagogues. Find tips for security and emergency planning here.
  • ADL Security for the High Holy Days and Other Special Events (PDF)
  • Sample Building Access Policies and Procedures (PDF) Learn how to balance the goals of having your institution be both welcoming and secure.
  • Emergency Planning: Disaster and Crisis Response Systems for Jewish Organizations published by United Jewish Communities, written by John Jay College of Criminal Justice and JCRC-NY