How safe is our community? That’s a question all of us ask from time to time, some of us on a daily basis as we come and go from our synagogue or community centre, or drop our kids off at school.
On April 4, dozens of members of the Jewish community across Canada participated in a webinar called Protecting Our People and Places: Redefining Risk, presented by insurance and risk management firm Arthur J. Gallagher Canada, which works internationally and has a significant presence in Canada. Speakers included Nir Maman, a krav maga expert with a background in security and policing in North America, Israel and elsewhere; Max Hazin of Northern Force Security; and Sam Feldman, Vishal Kundi, Justin Priestley and Paul Bassett of Arthur J. Gallagher. The webinar promoted the company’s insurance and risk management services, but also provided basic risk management information and a variety of community resources.
All of the speakers stressed that Canada is not immune to terrorist attacks and active shooter incidents of the kind seen in the United States and Israel. However, the webinar began with statistics that put the warnings into perspective: Between 2000 and 2006, Israel had suffered 27,905 terror attacks killing 1,116 Israelis and injuring 8,800; from September 2015 to the webinar date, 34 people have been killed in terror attacks and 400 injured.
Total casualties: 1,150 killed and 9,200 injured. Since 1973 until 2016, there have been 38 Islamic extremist terror attacks in the United States. Total casualties: 3,282 killed and 9,285 injured. Since December 1999, there have been four plots to carry out intended terror attacks in Canada and three perpetrated terror attacks. Total casualties: two killed and three injured.
Topics in the webinar included how to make a physical location an unattractive target to terrorists, how to create levels of resistance to a threat and how to handle an active shooter situation. Maman was critical of the security in place at most Jewish organizations as being more symbolic than effective, and stressed the need for training and education so as to empower people to protect and, if needed, defend themselves and their communities.
In his weekly email message on April 15, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver chief executive officer Ezra Shanken noted, “Over the past two years we have seen a rise in terrorist activity worldwide, some of which has targeted Jewish communities, such as in Paris and Copenhagen. While there has not been and is not currently an increased threat to our community, we should not assume that these types of events could never impact us.
“For many years, our Federation has taken a proactive approach to community safety and, in that vein, we have established the Community Security Committee, chaired by Bernard Pinsky, which is focused on identifying and assessing opportunities to enhance our collective safety. The committee will update the community about any security concerns, and will ensure community institutions have the appropriate protocols and technology in place to ensure maximum safety.”
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom told the Independent after the webinar that security is a way of life for modern Jewish communities, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. “This is just the way it is now,” he said. “In Europe, this type of security has long been the status quo. I remember one visit where you couldn’t enter a synagogue without someone in an orange jacket asking you what your bar mitzvah parashah was.
“Despite the lower risk level in Canada,” he continued, “cameras, security guards and security measures need to be in place both to deter attackers and to give people peace of mind. Many communities, like ours, have security committees, which receive training and actively protect the community. Many, some of whom have a background in the Israeli army or police training, see this as a sacred duty, as their calling in the community.”
For those who would like more information on safety protocols for the Jewish community, a number of useful resources can be found at chesedfund.com.
Matthew Gindin is a Vancouver freelance writer and journalist. He blogs on spirituality and social justice at seeking her voice (hashkata.com) and has been published in the Forward, Tikkun, Elephant Journal and elsewhere.