Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Jewish group to launch national security patrol to thwart anti-Semitic attacks

In an effort to curb vandalism and thwart terrorism against Jewish targets, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has announced it is forming a network of professionally trained volunteers to provide security at Canadian synagogues and Jewish community centres.
“I’m not looking to train commandos,” said program co-ordinator Doron Horowitz, noting that the program — dubbed the Community Security Network — is meant to complement law enforcement’s efforts. “It’s a neighbourhood watch … we’re not looking for vigilantes.”
Would-be volunteers, who must be between 25 and 50 years old, would undergo a series of background checks and psychological screening “to weed out individuals who have a different agenda or idea of what it means to protect the Jewish community,” said Mr. Horowitz, who is director of national security infrastructure for the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
After an orientation session 25 candidates will be hand-picked to undergo a training regimen of observational skills, counter-surveillance and physical fitness.
The training is “much more” than that received by most private security guards, said Mr. Horowitz. Volunteers will need to commit to a minimum of five hours per month.
Toronto is only the pilot project. Once Mr. Horowitz can successfully field a team of 25 volunteers, the program will be rolling out in Jewish communities across the country.
A similar U.K. program, the Community Security Trust, boasts 3,000 volunteers protecting more than 300 British synagogues, according to its website. In New York, the non-profit Community Security Service similarly coordinates security programs to respond “to the increasing threat to the American Jewish community.”
New York City is also home to the Brooklyn Shomrim (Hebrew for “guards”), an unarmed volunteer police patrol serving the borough’s Hasidic neighbourhoods and occasionally performing citizen’s arrests. The Community Security Network is “emphatically, categorically” different from groups like the Shomrim, said Mr. Horowitz.
A decorated former soldier with the Israeli Defence Forces, Mr. Horowitz has specialized training in anti-terrorism and still makes annual trips to Israel to volunteer with the Border Police. “It’s about serving the Israeli people, not a political ideology or politician,” he told the Jerusalem Post in December during a jeep patrol.
The Community Security volunteers would be posted to Jewish community events, or they would perform nightly patrols of Jewish schools or neighbourhood. Unarmed and without uniforms, the idea of the patrols is not to engage or provoke, but to keep watch and inform the police, said Mr. Horowitz. “It’s not to isolate ourselves, it’s to increase our co-operation with law enforcement,” he said.
“It’s a sad reality that in this day and age Jewish community organizations and religious institutions — especially when they’re mounting large events — they need trained volunteers to play the role of marshals,” said Karen Mock, a human rights consultant and former head of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
In 2005, the Anti-Defamation League released “Protecting Your Jewish Institution,” a 132-page guide to security planning at synagogues or Jewish centres. In a section on spotting suicide bombers, the guide notes that staff should “pay attention to a person constantly adjusting waistbands, ankles, or other clothing.”
In July 2006, in the midst of the Israel-Hezbollah war, gunman Naveed Haq forced his way into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and shot six women, one fatally. In 1994, Argentina suffered its deadliest bombing ever when a blast levelled the seven-storey Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.
Violence against Canadian Jewish targets has been rare, although Jewish homes and institutions are occasionally subject to vandalism. In 2010, a 17-year-old spray-painted swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti at a Calgary Holocaust memorial and synagogue. In early 2011, four synagogues, a Jewish school and a daycare in Montreal had their windows smashed.
In the annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report compiled by the Toronto Police, the Jewish community routinely ranks alongside the black and lesbian, gay and transgendered communities as being uniquely susceptible to hate crime. In 2010, the police reported 36 “hate/bias occurrences” against the Toronto Jewish community.
Mr. Horowitz insists the volunteer program is not a knee-jerk reaction to any particular threat. “Historically, Jewish communities have contended with threats in different times and periods throughout their history,” he said. “We understand the potential for threats, there’s just a responsibility to be proactive.”
National Post


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