September 14, 2019

ADL Addresses High Holy Days During Security Briefing

The ADL security briefing; Photo by Ryan Torok

With the High Holy Days around the corner, how do we keep our synagogues safe but also welcoming?

This was just one of the questions the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) addressed on Aug. 27 at its annual pre-High Holy Days security briefing at its Century City office.

Speaking to approximately 30 people, including security representatives and staff members of Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, ADL Deputy Regional Director Ariella Loewenstein said everyone has a role to play in ensuring their institutions are friendly but secure during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

“Security is driven by people, not by dollar signs,” she said. 

Lowenstein also spoke about national hate crime trends, stating that those facing threats today include not just Jews but Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community and women. Unfortunately for Jews, she said, the basis of all hatred is anti-Semitism. “The victims may differ, but the ideology remains the same.”

The day’s speakers included two law enforcement experts whom the ADL asked the Journal not to name.

“We’re living in an era now where hate travels very quickly.” — Ariella Loewenstein

While the presenters spotlighted recent shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and at the Chabad of Poway, they also discussed hate crimes that have affected the wider community, including the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, by
a white supremacist who published a manifesto targeting Hispanics before the incident.

Loewenstein said the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue set the precedent for a perpetrator sharing his hateful beliefs before committing the violence, and through online forums and social media, the message spread like wildfire. 

“We’re living in an era now where hate travels very quickly,” she said.

A longtime member at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada who volunteers on his synagogue’s security board asked what the best practices are for handling visitors who come to the synagogue and want to participate in services and events. He asked if security guards were allowed to physically search nonmembers of a synagogue.

Speakers responded that everyone must be treated the same regardless of their membership status at the synagogue. However, following the briefing, the man, who requested only his first name, Ted, be used, told the Journal he is concerned that Jews are at greater risk than ever following President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Jews being disloyal. 

He said on the High Holy Days, when a large group of Jews is in a single area, Temple Beth Ohr is ramping up efforts to keep its members safe. 

“We’re taking efforts to secure our building and population,” he said. “I’d be surprised if other temples or churches weren’t trying to protect themselves.”