September 23, 2022

Helping Synagogues Prepare for Secure High Holidays

Recently, Federation’s Community Security Initiative Team held a town hall meeting with synagogue leaders to discuss security plans for the upcoming high holidays. Now that most high holiday services will now be held in-person, with that comes added safety concerns, especially with the current rise in antisemitism.  

A security analyst from New Jersey’s Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness stressed the importance of preparedness, given that, in the current climate, faith-based groups remain targets of violence due to their symbolism, perceived lack of security, and accessible locations. and to the violent propaganda that exists to support these kinds of acts.  

“Reviewing and creating security plans is of utmost importance,” explained Thomas “Chip” Michaels, Federation’s Director of Security Training, “as well as liaising with your local law enforcement and emergency management teams with details of your event beforehand so they are ready and able to allocate resources to your event if deemed necessary.”  

Alexis McGrath, Second Vice President at Morristown Jewish Center Beit Yisrael, agrees. “Working closely with law enforcement and EMTs not only paves the way for best security practice, but also provides comfort to the community as it shows that there are people in the synagogue aware and focused on threats and how to prevent them and how to mitigate them if an incident occurs.” As an example, Alexis shared that her synagogue had already met with the local fire chief to discuss evacuation routes in case of an urgent situation.  

To further help prepare for the high holidays, Chip and Federation’s security team have been hard at work training teams at area synagogues on active threat preparedness, situational awareness, and usher and greeter protocols. “We want to make sure that our synagogues are prepared for any eventuality,” explained Federation’s Chief Security Officer Bob Wilson, “and we believe that offering and executing these types of trainings places synagogue staff and members in a better position of vigilance and readiness. If we can teach people the 4 D’s – deter, detect, delay, and deny a criminal element, then we ensure greater safety and security for everybody.” Since early summer, Bob and Chip have completed more than 30 training sessions, reaching approximately 700 people, in their effort to ramp up security before the holiday gatherings.  

Community safety is one of Federation’s greatest priorities and we are grateful to our synagogue partners for doing all they can to ensure their congregants’ safety.  To learn more about our Community Security Initiative, click here.