Written by: Jared Nabel
Dear fellow community members,
I am writing with an update about security at Temple Israel, given the well-documented rise in antisemitic incidents nationally and globally, and, closer to home, the tragic murders, ensuing lockdown, and days of uncertainty our neighbors in Maine endured last week.
In a nutshell: We are not aware of any specific current threats in NH, but the safety and security of our congregation, students, families, staff, and guests is at the top of our minds. As Ian Kaner, VP-Education, remarked in a recent board meeting, security is a broad issue that “everyone needs to stay involved with,” not the responsibility of any one person or committee. That said, we are working to re-invigorate the Security Subcommittee to help guide our efforts. Please reach out if you are interested in hearing more about serving on this committee.
Like every Jewish synagogue, organization, and gathering place, we must constantly balance welcoming guests while ensuring our members’ safety. As a recent news article about the increase in antisemitism and what I call the current threat climate stated, “Rising hate is tangible.” Our safety starts with building access. Everyone can help. If you see anything puzzling or suspicious in the parking lot or grounds, please report it to the office. Before you hold the door for someone you don’t know, introduce yourself! Ask their name in return. Wear your nametag indoors. In getting to know one another, we both strengthen our personal connections and ensure that everyone within our building has a legitimate reason to be here. The office has seen a noticeable increase in visits, calls, and notes sent by community members and neighbors sharing their concern for, and support for, our congregation, which has been quite heartwarming.
While we will not share all operational details, staff and leadership are focused on taking advantage of security trainings and webinars, following advice of local, state and federal law enforcement, ADL, USCJ, and SCN (Secure Community Network), and budgeting wisely for paid police presence at public events. I am glad to say that the Portsmouth Police Department has been very responsive to our concerns. In the days immediately following October 7, they took the initiative to increase patrols in our neighborhood and often parked in or near the temple as a show of support. Jewish Federation of NH is another vital security partner: Executive Director Allyson Guertin receives frequent direct briefings from the FBI, ADL, etc., and is sharing updates with synagogues statewide.
As many of you know, my professional background is law enforcement, and through my job working in security for the State Department, I have access to a number of useful resources. And, of course, suggestions from congregants are always welcome. Please contact me to discuss.