Incidents ranging from terrorist attacks in Israel to the mysterious Rosh Hashanah filming of people entering Congregation Beth Jacob by a woman in a hijab compelled about 100 people to gather at the Toco Hills synagogue Sunday night, March 27, to talk about shoring up community security.
Jack Williams, a Georgia State University law professor who specializes in studying threat — the intent, capability and authority of someone to cause harm — said the United States has picked up 287 authenticated communications from Islamic State talking about targets in the past year, and most of them not only mentioned the United States, but also identified Jews or Jewish institutions.
Law enforcement does an excellent job of disrupting terrorist plans at an early stage, but a fundamental question is whether we should focus on the extreme unlikelihood of an attack on any particular target or the potentially catastrophic consequences if that attack happens, Williams said. He leans toward the consequences.
The key is for communitywide planning and training so that if an attack happens, people can respond rather than react, said Israel Defense Forces veterans Ariel Siegelman and Gonen Cohen, who travel the world as security consultants and trainers with the Draco Group.
They emphasized the concept of successive rings of security to identify and stop threats before they can reach the target — “me and us.”
A recent Shabbat when a fire alarm went off and no one reacted showed the lack of Beth Jacob’s preparedness for an emergency, attendees agreed. Now the congregation has to decide on the next steps. Siegelman said he would like to see a rapid response team — an offensive force — be part of Beth Jacob’s plan.
Congregation President Larry Beck said other congregations and day schools were invited to the briefing, but it’s up to them to decide whether they want to join Beth Jacob in security planning and training.