High Holiday security: stay vigilant

Bernard Picart [Public domain], The Sounding of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, illustration circa 1733–1739 by Bernard Picart from
Bernard Picart [Public domain], The Sounding of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, illustration circa 1733–1739 by Bernard Picart from “The Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations of the Known World”
Security and emergency planning should be an integral component of every synagogue’s High Holiday preparations. Here are some tools to guide you:

High Holiday Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning Library

Synagogue-specific Security & Emergency Planning

Consider the following elements of heightened vigilance:

  • Increase visible security measures. Someone planning an attack may look at your facility, conclude that it is defended and decide to go elsewhere. Several recent incidents also underscore that the presence of armed security and law enforcement personnel and the placement of security checkpoints do not guarantee that an attack will be averted or interupted. Nevertheless, their presence can enable the timely discovery and quick resolution of potential threats and reduce the lethality of terrorist attacks.
  • Review your policies and procedures. How else can you send a signal to outsiders that your facility is a tough target? For example, does your staff do regular inspections of your facility looking for something that, “Just doesn’t look right?” If not, start now. If they do, should you increase the frequency. Review JCRC’s Sample Access Policies and Procedures to identify additional steps.
  • Test your systems. OK, you’ve identified systems to screen your mail, respond to bomb threats and suspicious objects and you have an active shooters plan. The key question is: “Will they work in reality?” Do your panic buttons function? Test them (after you first alert the alarm company). Have you had tabletop exercises and drills covering multiple hazards? How can you make sure that your entire staff and constituencies are on their collective toes?
  • Check in with your local police. For most Jewish organizations, September is the start of a new program year. Reach out to your local police. Offer them the opportunity to get to know your programs, your rhythms, your people and your building. Ask them for suggestions as to how to make your people safer.
  • If you see something, say something. Think how to build a culture of security, because security is everbody’s business. If any of your staff, students, volunteers, congregants or clients sees or hears something suspicious they should feel comfortable to report it to the appropriate person in your facility and the information should be passed on to the police. In NYC the number is 1-888-NYC-SAFE. Elsewhere in New York State the number is 1-866-SAFE-NYS. Every tip is investigated.