Shortly after releasing its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, which found an increase in reported hate crimes in California — up from 226 to 275 — the Anti-Defamation League held a meeting at its Los Angeles headquarters to advise local Jewish leaders on security threats facing the community in advance of the High Holy Days.
“There’s no specific threat that we know of this year,” ADL Senior Associate Director Alison Mayersohn said. “[But] the High Holy Days are a good time for Jewish institutions to be in touch with their local [law] enforcement agency.”
Seventy representatives from synagogues and Jewish institutions attended the briefing, including the Skirball Cultural Center, Jewish Federation chapters, and the USC and UCLA Hillel centers. The meeting, held Aug. 4, featured presentations by the FBI as well as ADL Associate Director Ariella Loewenstein and ADL investigative researcher Joanna Mendelson.
An FBI spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said that hate groups are currently on the rise in the United States, with 932 groups in 2009, up from 926 in 2008.
The ADL is encouraging Jewish institutions to review their security policies, procedures and training, and to download its security manual, “Protecting Your Jewish Institution,” which includes a chapter on High Holy Days security, from ADL.org.
Among the organization’s recommendations to Jewish institutions this year:
• Instruct staff, ushers and congregants to keep their eyes and ears open for anything unusual or suspicious, and call law enforcement immediately if they come across something.
• Ensure staff members and ushers know what to do in the event of an emergency, including reaching management during services, contacting a hired police officer or security guard and calling 911.
• Provide a hired police officer or security guard with specific instructions, identify who will be their primary contact if they have questions (e.g., an usher captain), and ensure that someone is responsible for making sure they remain at their post.
• Review and practice security procedures — in particular, review with all personnel and ushers their role in safety and security.
• Renew/establish relationships with local law enforcement and discuss security. If there is no established relationship with key police personnel, set up a meeting to create one.
• Trust your instincts. If something strikes you as being out of place or problematic, call the police immediately.
For more information, call the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Southwest Regional office at (310) 446-8000.