Jewish Lives Matter: A Conversation with a Security Expert
With antisemitism on the rise around the world, concern is growing, leaving many wondering what the best ways are to keep our synagogues, schools, community centers etc safe. Security expert Trevor Shaff sat down with us and answered the most commonly asked questions about how communities can improve their security.
He explained that although he works with clients from all over the world, institutions, organizations, communities, and individuals who face different threats it is the situations that change but the principles of how to address their concerns remain the same.
Question: How can you tell if a person is suspicious or not, what are the signs?
Answer: It’s quite simple if I don’t know you, you are suspicious! If the doorbell in my home rings at midnight, do I open the door and let the unknown person in? Or maybe I will first ask them to walk through a metal detector and then let them in??? Obviously, if I don’t know you, you are not coming into my house. Coming into my school, synagogue or community center is no different. So, we ask a few questions, we take note of body language we verify who you are before we let you into our lives. The lives of our family, friends and community members might count on it. Literally.
Question: How can we better protect our schools and synagogues, we have guards, CCTV cameras – is it enough?
Answer: Technology is great but nothing beats alert and involved people. By getting involved, by learning what a suspicious person is, by understanding the “information gatherer” by being alert when walking into the synagogue, just before you walk in… turn around and see if there is someone watching… from a parked car, a bus stop, an apartment window… and let them know they have been seen.
It is critical that our security is proactive and NOT reactive – after every attack in the States the authorities love to talk about how quick the response was… this is too late. We need to ensure that the attack does not happen in the first place – and that can be done, we can be proactive and we can save lives. It takes training, practical, cost-effective security solutions and good intelligence. AND people must care. I have helped numerous institutions plan ahead and make themselves a safer place. Strategizing and training can make a significant difference in minimizing threats like that of mass shooters which, as we have seen, can unfold in our children’s schools.
Question: How can we have an “open and inviting policy” and yet ensure that no people enter our establishment with intention to do harm?
Answer: You cannot have an open and “anyone can enter policy.” We need to have community members who are trained in security awareness who can ensure that everyone entering our synagogues are deemed to be safe, or we know them….or if we don’t, we get to know them before they enter by asking a few simple questions – e.g.…what is this week’s Parsha, what was your Bar Mitzvah portion, who can vouch for you in the community…
Remember, if this person has evil intentions, he will first come to gather information, and if he sees that it is easy to enter, he might return a week later with weapons BUT if we can deter him when he is gathering information he most probably will not come back… and I am sure that Mr. Robert Bowers [the murderer in the Pittsburgh synagogue] had no idea of that week’s Parsha.
Question: Do we need to look like an army base or prison in order to be properly secured and protected?
Answer: No, one of the most beautiful buildings in Jerusalem is also one of the most well secured in Jerusalem – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By using practical security solutions that make sense, by having a holistic combination of structural, technological and human security (which includes community members) – we can ensure that we have a beautiful, yet highly secure installation which will DETER the information gatherer, he will doubt his success and move to another target – that is all we want.
There is a big difference between feeling safe and being safe. Many people assume that if they have a lot of technological solutions or they build strong walls, they will be safe. The problem is that, for the determined, there is always a way to overcome technology. Actual safety comes from holistic solutions that combine alert community members, planning ahead and training in providing a fast response, when and if a problem arises. Our goal is to teach people how to PREVENT situations from developing and most of the time that is possible but it does take training and awareness – which is exactly what MAX Security Solutions does.