No immediate threats for High Holy Day security, but warnings to stay vigilant

The Los Angeles Jewish community is not facing any security threats related to the High Holidays, but local institutions should still be vigilant, the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Southwest division said at a community briefing Tuesday.

“We want to be open and welcoming, but we also want to be safe and secure at the same time,” ADL associate regional director Ariella Schusterman said appearing at a recent ADL security briefing for the Jewish community. “The question is, ‘Can these two things be married together?’ And the answer, actually, is ‘Yes.’”

Held at the Century City headquarters of the ADL-Pacific Southwest, the security seminar’s theme focused on suspicious behavior: what qualifies, and how to respond to it. A national agency that emails security alerts, security bulletins and non-alerts to institutions and oversees regional offices that partner with law officials on security issues, the ADL holds this security briefing annually, always prior to the High Holy Days. The agency invites community leaders, security personnel and others to the event. 

It’s important to focus less on a person and more on a person’s behavior, said Jason Pantages, assistant federal security director at the Transportation Security Administration at Los Angeles International Airport. “People aren’t suspicious—their behavior is suspicious,” Pantages, the program’s main speaker, told the group.

Pantages provided examples of suspicious behavior, such as a person leaving a bag behind or parking an unfamiliar vehicles in an prohibited area; an unfamiliar person photographing loading docks, security cameras or other building features; or a stranger who is unusually curious about an institution’s’ security and asks questions about it.

Both speakers gave individual presentations. It’s important to maintain “domain awareness,” which is the knowledge of what’s normal activity at your institution and what’s abnormal, Pantages said. That baseline will help you identify suspicious behavior, he said.

And always trust your instincts, Schusterman said. “If it looks wrong, if it feels wrong, then do not be afraid to contact somebody, whether it be your security person, or whether it be the police,” she said.

During the High Holy Days, police “are all on higher alert,” Schusterman said, to the question of audience member Joanne Feldman, assistant office manager for the Pacific Jewish Center, who asked if it’s a synagogue’s responsibility to liaison with police for extra security on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But, if an institution wants additional security – such as a patrol vehicle or a decoy vehicle parked in front of its location when services are taking place – it’s the institution’s responsibility to coordinate that with police, Schusterman said.

Approximately 60 people from various synagogues, schools and other organizations attended, including Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, the Skirball Cultural Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; the Los Angeles Jewish Home and IKAR, as well as police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Burbank Police Department and Beverly Hills police.

For further information on ADL security measures—including the online security manual, “Protecting Your Jewish Institution”—visit