Zalman Myer-Smith
Security for the Community, by the Community.

What in Halle?

The attempted mass murder of Jews on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar, in Germany, a nation steeped in its own historically heinous relationship with its Jewish citizens is beyond surreal.

A vile affront was stopped in its tracks on the very day by simply having a closed and monitored front door. 

Jews of all religious persuasions beseech G-d on this one day to be sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. In one of the most poignant and critical prayers in Jewish liturgy known as Unetanneh Tokef or (We shall ascribe awesomeness to the day) composed by Rabbi Amnon Of Mayence in Germany in the eleventh century, we state an awe inspiring reading of Divine activities during Rosh HaShana (when it is written) and on Yom Kippur (when it is sealed).

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die after a long life and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by famine and who by thirst, who by upheaval and who by plague, who by strangling and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But Repentance, Prayer, and Charity annul the severity of the Decree.” 

Halle was a tragedy in that two innocents were killed outside. It could have been much worse, but thanks to basic and solid community security fundamentals, those praying in synagogue inside on the holiest Jewish day were indeed granted life. 

At the end of Unetanneh Tokef, we say “But Repentance, Prayer, and Charity annul the severity of the Decree.” Thankfully, solid security practices nullified the severity of this attack.

What went right in Halle? 

  1. The front door was locked – amazing simple, but a key barrier that frustrated the progress of the armed attacker.
  2. Trained security volunteer inside responded – congregants were removed to a safe room while waiting for police to respond and assess the situation.
  3. Protocols in place – having  a volunteer on site watching cameras and with training helped give direction and focus during a crisis.

What went wrong?

  1. No police on site – as critical as our law enforcement partners are, we cannot expect help to be on site or respond immediately. Average police response time is 7 minutes in the United States. Shots can be fired in seconds. 
  2. The only barrier was that front door. It was a miracle. We cannot rely on miracles. We must have other contingencies and layers of security to mitigate and deter attacks.

Despite German government assurances that Jewish sites would have police protection, on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, no police were present.

It took ten minutes for armed police to respond – this again demonstrates how critical it is that all community members play a role in threat mitigation and appropriate responses to save each other and have clearly defined and drilled responses until law enforcement are on scene.

It is irresponsible to put all our safety requests and concerns and place them at the feet of law enforcement who rightfully expect cooperation and self sufficiency from a sophisticated community that is advanced in so many other areas. A solid partnership entails clear roles and responsibilities before, during and after an incident.

The CSO (Community Security Organization) leads the effort in training, securing and consulting sites in a low cost approach using multi faceted techniques. We proudly utilize best practices from sister organizations in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and Israel alongside updated protocols and guidance from our law enforcement partners. 

Having an effective and no frills approach that ensures each and every community member is a security stakeholder elevates response and effectiveness. I’m proud to see the progress of hundreds of sites and thousands of community members as they gain more skills, confidence and experience in taking charge of personal and community security.

Halle was a tragedy in that two innocents were killed outside. It could have been much worse, but thanks to basic and solid community security fundamentals, those praying in synagogue inside on the holiest Jewish day were indeed granted life. 

CSO is there to ensure life is protected each and every day of the year and that security for the community, by the community stays at the forefront of everyday activities.

About the Author
Zalman Myer-Smith is the National Director of www.thecso.org. The Community Security Organization focuses on liaising, training, and working with law enforcement agencies and serving thousands of Jewish community synagogues, schools, and centers.
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