In the event of a future terrorist attack aimed at a Jewish institution anywhere in the world, a communications network being established on Long Island would contact each of the 225 Jewish institutions here — including synagogues and day schools — to alert their leadership and provide whatever guidance is necessary.
Daniel Krimmer, president of the Conference of Jewish Organizations of Nassau County and a founder of the group, the Jewish Advisory Network for Long Island (JANSLI), pointed out that Long Island with an estimated Jewish population of 311,000 has the third largest Jewish population in the world.
“We have to be on our toes and be in a position of awareness about terrorism or anti-Jewish acts,” he said. “Law enforcement cannot be everywhere. We need a communications link so that if a tragedy does occur, word of it can get out through fax, e-mail, cell phone or telephone.”
“We may not be able to prevent the first attack, but if something does occur we want to be ready before they attack again,” he explained, adding that JANSLI will advise Jewish leaders of what happened so they can react properly.
“One of the things we want to do is train people to know what to do in the event of a tragedy or crisis so there is no immediate panic but rather a constructive response,” Krimmer said. “This will be a success if we can prevent one injury or death.”
Arthur Katz, a past chairman of the Long Island Cabinet of UJA-Federation of New York and president of JANSLI, said schools train their students in what to do in the event of a fire. Similarly, he said, if there is a terrorist incident, JANSLI will provide information to synagogues on how to respond. And he noted that there should be several people who need to be contacted in each synagogue.
“What our group is establishing is an ongoing process to have a communications network in each building, and each building should have multiple contacts,” he said. “That could be the religious school principal or a secretary or janitor or security officer. Every synagogue has a different structure, and the way we communicate with them may be different — text message, beeper, cell phone or e-mail. The system is designed so that when there is an incident, all are notified immediately.”
To notify each synagogue about JANSLI and learn who should be contacted and how, Katz said college students and other volunteers would be “reaching out to each synagogue to explain our mission and solicit their desire to participate. We hope to have reached out to everyone within 90 days.”
In addition to the communications network, Krimmer said JANSLI plans to set up a speakers’ bureau “to make the community aware of what could happen and what steps should be taken. We want to be proactive rather than reactive. Rather than have another 9/11 incident occur and have people then say let’s mobilize, let’s mobilize before something happens.”
Katz said JANSLI would also partner with the national Jewish alert network, the Secure Community Network, which links major U.S. Jewish organizations.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he welcomed JANSLI and noted that some other communities, including Los Angeles, have set up something similar.
“Security is our priority concern,” he said. “People must know what they are doing and take guidance from professionals.”
Gary Shapiro, acting commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department’s Special Investigations Squad and coordinator of its Bias Crimes Unit, is another founder of the Long Island group and will serve as its chief operating officer. He will help JANSLI serve as a liaison between Jewish institutions and law enforcement agencies and help provide these institutions with free security audits conducted by trained law enforcement experts.
Krimmer pointed out that some Jewish institutions have “archaic security systems that need to be upgraded. Not every temple has an adequate system in place; some have a senior citizen out front who acts like a guard. Everyone is relying on the police, but they are not there at every moment. “A lot of people think this can only happen in New York City. That is a fallacy. We are not trying to scare anybody, but it is possible [for it to happen here] and people should be aware.”
Shapiro noted that recent terrorist attacks that took place in Madrid and London were planned in suburban areas.
“With so many security resources focused and provided to New York City,” he said, “where does that leave Long Island to combat potential crises?”
The Jewish Advisory Network for Long Island has a mailing address: P.O. Box 38, Uniondale, N.Y. 11553. Its toll-free phone number is (866) 734-9552. It plans to have a Web site by early January.