An uneasy feeling in a New York synagogue kept the joy out of Purim for David Dabscheck and Adam Sager several years ago. Too little security; anyone could walk into the building.
From that was born Community Security Service (CSS), thecss.org, an independent security organization that protects attendees at Jewish events and provides intensive training for volunteer members of Jewish institutions.
Dabscheck, who grew up in Australia and works as director of strategic initiatives and special projects for the David Project, and Sager, a native of northern California who did combat intelligence and threat response in the Israeli army, surveyed the security situation around New York City’s Jewish institutions, and found it largely inadequate.
Jewish sites, likely among terrorists’ primary targets in this country, frequently have little security besides a minimum-wage guard at the front door, says Sager, veteran of 15 years’ experience in the security field. “Jews in America have felt safe for a long time.”
He and Dabscheck patterned CSS after programs in England and other diaspora communities. CSS has trained hundreds of volunteers and staffed hundreds of Jewish events since 2007, with the blessings of the police and Jewish organizations, Dabscheck says.
Like the El Al security personnel who are trained to observe passengers in line, CSS’s volunteers scan crowds on their way into buildings. The volunteers – including Dabscheck and Sager, who still volunteer at Jewish events – put themselves, potentially, in harm’s way. “It’s inevitable,” Dabscheck says.
They have worked with the synagogue whose inadequate security originally worried them; they went back there recently. The security, Dabscheck says, “is much better.”
Close call: Dabscheck escaped injury when a car bomb exploded near him in London in 1999. Sophisticated reader: Interested in responses to evil, Dabscheck considers Vasily Grossman and Albert Camus among his favorite authors. Budding poet: Winner of an army-wide poetry competition while serving in the IDF, Sager befriended Israeli poet laureate Yehuda Amichai. Taking matters into his own hands: When traffic lights malfunctioned after an accident near a Manhattan Starbucks recently, Sager directed traffic in a downpour for an hour, using his umbrella as a pointer.