Rabbi Shea Hecht
The truth is that Chabad has an unmistakable culture of openness which does create a certain level of vulnerability. Honestly, the average Beis Chabad
will not thrive if it is turned into a fortress.
I had the privilege to meet personally with some of the most prominent security experts in the world to discuss our dilemma. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the staff at Giuliani Partners; Mr. Jules Kroll founder of Kroll Associates; and Mr. Robert Tucker of T & M Protection Resources. I would also like to credit NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Chief William Bratton of the LAPD, who took time from their respective schedules to give me their assessment of Chabad from a security standpoint.
Each one of these individuals is on the cutting edge of the world of intelligence and security and has an intimate knowledge of the current climate vis-à-vis terrorism.
They have given me a number of valuable insights which I share with you here:
1. Everyone mentioned above agrees that our mosdos, yeshivos and community in Crown Heights and the five boroughs are safe. The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau has a strong grasp of the threats facing our communities and maintains a very high level of preparedness. In this respect the NYPD is as advanced as any professional army; a prolonged, Mumbai-type scenario simply could not happen anywhere in New York. Commissioner Kelly said, “You have to continue with your work, and leave the policing to us. Our responsibility is to worry for your safety.” Chief Bratton pointed out that the level of communication between law enforcement agencies is today very high, and that Kelly’s statement is true for any major US city. He also noted that in the wake of Mumbai, police agencies here and throughout the world have made it a priority to brief their Jewish communities on security.
2. While any Beis Chabad can potentially be a target, the modus operandi of a terrorist organization is to invest their time, money and risk to attack high-impact targets. The Beis Chabad in Mumbai was a high-traffic, soft-target in an international city.
By contrast, the Beis Chabad in Smalltown USA, for all of the wonderful mitzvos and good things that are accomplished there, is far below the radar of any terror organization.
3. Regardless of location, every mossad must always have a working relationship with the local law-enforcement agencies. Make an appointment with the local police chief to get his assessment of the security outlook in your area. Encourage the police to tour your shul, school etc. to get an understanding of your security needs.
Keep them up to date about your schedule. They should know your schedule for services, late night shiurim, any work being done on the property, as well as staff or workers who may have access to the property. Let them study your facility and then tell you how to best secure your Beis Chabad and where your risks lie.
4. What will the police find if they need to enter the basement of your Chabad House? A Shul? Kindergarten classrooms? Deep storage? It is advisable to create a “skyprint”, a map of your facility together with photos of the many rooms, doorways, etc. Give a copy to law enforcement (as well as State Police, if you live in a small town), keep one in your home, and give one to your mossad President.
This is a no-cost resource that will give invaluable information to police that can save time and, ultimately, lives.
5. While it may seem somewhat cliché, it is important that we be vigilant. There is no security force in the world that is large enough to post an officer on every corner–they rely on us to be their eyes and ears. Anyone who has been on the subway in New York already knows the mantra “if you see something, say something.” We have to drive this same message home to those who daven and learn in our mosdos. In the end, they will be the ones who sound the alarm in case of an emergency.
6. Mayor Giuliani gave an assessment that I think will resonate strongly with shluchim. “It would be a shame if you cut back on your work, too much would be lost.” He explained that terrorism is used as a means of manipulation. If we would react to terror by cutting back on our activities, we would only encourage more such violence, G-d forbid. But by increasing the Rebbe’s work both in quantity and quality, not only are we fulfilling our shlichus but we also are also creating a more secure environment.
May we succeed in establishing and expanding many, many more Batei Chabad throughout the world, and merit to fulfill our shlichus safely and happily to the fullest extent and be reunited with the kedoshim of Mumbai and the Rebbe for the geulah shleimah.