By Zalman Myer-Smith
Chanukah season is a much loved time of year for the Jewish community, whatever your religious affiliation. This year, physical attacks and attempted murder has sullied the light that shines from the Menorah. Indeed, as the secular year comes to a swift end, the annual best and worst of 2019 is up for discussion. For the American Jewish community it has been a rather challenging year.
In 2019, fear and horror have understandably taken over. The Jewish people are renowned as those who get things done & overcome adversity no matter how dire the circumstances. Historically with the Maccabees up until today, we have fought against hate and persevered.
I did not grow up as a religious Jew, but was always a proud British Jew who saw and responded to firsthand institutional and physical antisemitism. I’ve made a twenty five plus year career fighting those who hate or discriminate against the Jewish people and ensuring Jewish life can carry on without fear or hindrance through community security.
The challenge we face today in the United States is we outsource everything. Taking responsibility four safety and security is both an individual and community effort. Former NYPD police commissioner Ray Kelly famously lauded the use of trained security volunteers citing our sister organizations in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia. The CSO is proud to take the lead in training Shluchim, Shluchos, school and site staff and regular community members in security skills and responses.
Security volunteers know the site, they know who belongs and they certainly have “skin in the game” As we learned in the Yom Kippur attack in Halle, Germany and seemingly in the Monsey Chanukah attack, a simple locked door saved lives. Armed response is an important tool, however not everyone is armed or can be due to local legal restrictions.
What can be done right now in less than 36 hrs to secure your facility and events?
1) Form a Volunteer Security or Welcoming Group
Your community is understandably on edge. As the site leadership, they expect practical and realistic solutions from you. Forming a security team is the first step in making your site more secure.
2) Contact law enforcement to visit your location and build a relationship
We always say it’s much better to meet law enforcement and government agencies before, NOT during or after an incident. Some amazing professional relationships and alliances have been made and this only makes proactive security and responses even better.
3) Have a Security Assessment Carried out & then a Security Plan of Action
A security assessment shows you flaws in your locations security. A security plan of action turns into reality best practices and security procedures in your daily activities with minimal disruption. CSO can help you with this process.
4) Apply for the security grant from the Department of Homeland Security (last year was $100k for security site upgrades and contracted armed security)
Contact us for amazing grant writers who have a very high success rate in getting the DHS Non Profit Security Grant Program. It is a competitive program and is open to all faiths. CSO has had great success in guiding and helping sites get this much needed funding.
5) Stop the Bleed
Stop the Bleed has become de rigueur for law enforcement, first responders and security personnel. Contact us for local instructors. A literal life saving course that’s just a couple of hours. If you hear Police and Radio recordings from the Monsey attack and others, EMS are told to stage outside and wait until it’s safe. One can, r’l bleed out in a couple of minutes.
6) Locks on Doors & Screening/Greeting visitors
Keep doors locked and create a culture of not opening doors to those you don’t know. Just like at home. You don’t leave your front door wide open for anyone to walk into. Everyone entering your site needs to walk through one point of access where they know they will be greeted and screened
7) Armed or Unarmed Responders
People carrying guns may make you feel better, but if weapons are used, all other methods of security and keeping attackers outside of the location have failed. The level of training required to shoot under stress and in crowds is an immense responsibility. Additionally, there are many after incident legalities and exposure that you will face. Contact us for details.
8) Training for Greeters and Screeners – your ambassadors
They help welcome visitors, create a presence and deterrence. A brief training course teaches them El Al style screening skills where their focus is on behavior and responses.
We need to insource security. As a community we have fabulous organizations that cover the gamut of community needs and crises. However, we can and must upgrade our security standards at all our locations. Law enforcement are responders and won’t necessarily be onsite. Paid licensed and armed security onsite are great, but rely on you for screening as to who belongs and who does not. It’s irresponsible to put the onus on them to protect your entire community alone. The practical solutions are here, they just need to be implemented.
Jews are termed a light amongst the nations. We must now be a light for ourselves in leading the way in balancing an open environment for life changing Chabad activities that enhance the Jewish community with life protecting and sensible security responses.
—Zalman Myer-Smith is the Executive Director of www.thecso.org, a Florida based volunteer Community Security Organization liaising, training, and working with law enforcement agencies and serving Jewish community synagogues, schools, and centers. Zalman is also the Director of Security for both Lubavitch Educational Center in Miami and for Chabad of Florida.