‘We need to be on on alert 24/7’ - Jewish community leader

Mike Wagenheim

Senior U.S. Correspondent, i24NEWS

4 min read
Members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community study the Torah in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Yom Kippur, October 12, 2016, in New York City, the United States.
SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFPMembers of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community study the Torah in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Yom Kippur, October 12, 2016, in New York City, the United States.

'It's important that we continue to practice our religion and really be proud about being Jews'

Evan Bernstein, the CEO of Community Security Service, which trains volunteers to protect synagogues, Jewish institutions, and Jewish events, spoke to i24NEWS about the high alert required during the Jewish High Holidays, and general concerns around Jewish security in the United States. 

During the main Jewish holidays - Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot - American police usually increase measures to protect religious institutions. Bernstein suggested that this is the time when the “Jewish community globally really starts thinking about security.”

“I think this is a moment where we, as an organization and other organizations as well, are taking the time to work with their constituents to revisit best practices and to really rethink where they are, and ensure that they're doing everything possible to keep your institution as secure as possible as we go into the holidays,” he said.

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Just last week, New York police reported a significant rise in the number of attacks on the Jewish community. As it becomes an almost everyday reality, “we need to be on guard and on alert 24/7,” and not just during the holiday season, Bernstein said. 

“I think if you look at the majority of the major incidents that have taken place to the Jewish community, in the United States over the last five to 10 years, they were not during any kind of holiday, they were random, regular Shabbats, and I think that that's something we need to be aware of, and constantly be on alert,” Bernstein stressed. 

He added that American Jews should be more engaged in the security of their community serving as volunteers and their synagogues and other institutions and don’t “just rely on outsourcing our security.”

However, he noted that cooperation with law enforcement is also crucial and underlined that the “Jewish community has probably never had a better relationship with federal or local law enforcement in a particular country, maybe in history, as Jews in the diaspora.”

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Nevertheless, according to Bernstein, the trend of increasing attacks on the Jewish community is seen not only in the US but also across Europe

“I was just in Europe, meeting with our sister organizations in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. And those groups are always on alert. And if you'd speak to the communities there, there is no downtime, there is no moment where they can take that break,” he noted. 

However, Bernstein urged Jews of “every way, shape, and form” to never let hate “stop us from practicing our religion.”  

“It's important and imperative that we continue to practice our religion and really be proud about being Jews.”

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