Modern Day Security Threats to Jewish Places of Worship

places-of-worship

The Jewish community is consistently the most targeted religious community in the United States.

The Jewish community congregates in synagogues to worship, exchange information and bond. But these sacred spaces are often seen as ‘soft targets’ to adversaries – places where they can inflict mass casualties and draw extensive media coverage.

While all faith-based communities across the nation face varying levels of discrimination and threats, Jewish communities in particular face a persistent threat of violence and hate crimes. In fact, the Jewish community is consistently the most targeted religious community in the United States. Recent reports tabulated by the Anti-Defamation League indicate that antisemitic incidents are being reported at record levels.  

According to the FBI’s annual data on hate crimes – defined as criminal acts motivated by bias – hate crimes targeting the Jewish community constitutes over half of all religion-based crimes. Since the FBI started collecting data in the 1990s, the number of hate crimes against Jewish people has ranged between 600 and 1,200 each year.

According to research by the Secure Community Network (SCN), there have been at least 18 reported bomb threats directed at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and synagogues across 9 states since March of 2022. This alarming report serves as a reminder that the Jewish community continues to be a top target for hate crimes in the United States and must maintain preparedness and resiliency.

As antisemitism continues to rise across the United States, many synagogues have responded by increasing safety measures and training their congregants on how to respond to potential threats. The following is a list of the most common security threats faced by Jewish communal institutions in 2022.

Active Shooters

One of the greatest modern security threats faced by Jewish institutions is that posed by lone domestic actors – specifically violent extremists with racial biases and motives – who look to attack soft targets with easily accessible weapons. The threat may also manifest in ideologically motivated workplace violence, antisemitic harassment, and threats targeting Jewish schools, community centers and synagogues. Many of these violent extremists are inspired and motivated by a combination of ideological, socio-political, and personal grievances against their Jewish targets.  

These violent incidents draw extensive media coverage and have an immense psychological impact on not only the victims’ loved ones, but on the entire faith community.

In January of 2022, a gunman entered Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas during services, taking three congregants and a rabbi as hostages. The gunman demanded the release of Pakistani national Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth for attempted murder and other felonies. A standoff ended more than 10 hours later with all hostages released and the perpetrator, identified as British national Malik Faisal Akram, dead.

Vandalism and Damage to Religious Property

 Synagogues commonly face intentional defacement, damage, or destruction of property due to the religious nature of the property.

 Earlier this year, felony hate crime charges were filed against a man arrested in connection with a series of antisemitic vandalism incidents at synagogues and Jewish schools across Chicago.

The charges follow a strong of antisemitic vandalism around the Far North Side neighborhood of Chicago. At least three synagogues, a high school and several local Jewish businesses were spray painted with swastikas or had windows broken.

Bomb Threats and Arson

Over the past several years, security officials have reported hundreds of bomb threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and other Jewish institutions in the United States.

In recent months, the FBI and law enforcement around the country have investigated a number of hoax threats of targeted violence against schools and other public places. These threats—often issued via text message or posted on social media—are taken very seriously. Hoax threats are not a joke, and they can have devastating consequences—both for the public and for the perpetrators.

Protesting and Harassment

The Jewish community is regularly targeted because of its actual or perceived support for Israel and Zionism.

From 2018 to 2020, between 7 and 9% of antisemitic incidents reported to the Anti-Defamation League incorporated anti-Israel or anti-Zionist elements. These incidents included harassers telling Jewish people they should “go back to Israel,” synagogues vandalized with pro-Palestinian graffiti, and the distribution of flyers blaming Israel the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In January of 2022, a man was arrested by detectives with the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force for using antisemitic slurs while physically assaulting a Jewish man who refused his demands to remove a sweatshirt with the Israel Defense Forces logo. 

There is evidence that antisemitic assaults across the United States as conflicts intensify between Israel and Hamas. It’s important to keep in mind that every protest is different and every disturbed individual poses his own unique potential threat to security.

Security Strategies for Jewish Communal Institutions

Acts of targeted violence against Jewish houses of worship are a real – and growing – problem in the United States. Over the past five years, the Anti-Defamation League has found there has been a 60% increase in antisemitic crimes across the United States. 

As incidents of threats of violence at synagogues and other Jewish centers in the United States increase, the Jewish community must accept the unfortunate reality that a vulnerable place is an open invitation for an incident. Synagogues must implement security policies and procedures to protect their congregations.

Blue Star Security stands firmly with the Jewish community. Our team of off-duty and retired police officers provides unparalleled protection for synagogues and other Jewish institutions across the Chicago area, while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for all their congregants. We are certified and licensed experts in not just security, but also prevention and investigative services.

We work extensively with Chicago-area Jewish communal institutions to provide training in risk assessment, conflict resolution and crisis de-escalation; our team is committed to working with you to develop the customized security solutions that are best-suited to your institution’s specific needs.

Contact us to discuss a customized plan for your place of worship: call us at 708-669-7470 or contact us online at https://bluestarsecurityltd.com/contact-us/.

Learn more about our Place of Worship Security services at https://bluestarsecurityltd.com/services/.

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