Although it has become so ingrained in the culture of New York City, local and national security experts stressed the importance of “If you see something, say something” in the Five Towns.
The mayors of Lawrence, Cedarhurst and Atlantic Beach hosted a conference on security on Wednesday that featured several law enforcement officials. The message of the day was to be prepared and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
“We’ve gone from a community that is not prepared, to one that needs to be prepared,” said Lawrence Mayor Martin Oliner. “We need to make sure every synagogue has the same capabilities.”
Although there have been no serious attacks or threats to the Five Towns, the recent incident where a rabbi and three Jewish children were shot to death outside a French school and events in Iran have spurred Oliner to be proactive.
“The not so good news is in the next 12 to 18 months, the American-Jewish community is vulnerable,” said Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network. “In 60 percent of cases, Jewish communities are in the crosshairs. The goal is to be prepared if something occurs.”
Goldenberg, who has worked in law enforcement and studied extremism overseas, recommended temple employees to be trained to watch out for suspicious activity and to know what to do in an emergency. He added that sharing maps and blueprints of buildings with police is vital.
One temple already involved in the Five Towns security network is .
Reuben Levine, a member of its board, said that 80 people have been trained.
“We are a very soft target in a visible area,” he said. “We want to champion an effort for a communications network.”
He pointed to recent examples of suspicious activity in the synagogue. In one, a man dressed in street clothes walked through Young Israel during Sabbath services. Levine stopped the man and questioned him. It turned out to be the uncle of a Bar Mitzvah boy. Levine has also stopped people who photographed the temple on the Sabbath — they turned out to be insurance brokers.
“But what if he wasn’t?” Levine asked.
Aside from a watchful public, Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale said that additional funds could go a long way in securing communities.
“We need more cameras in Nassau County,” he said. “That would put a dent on crime and terrorism.”
The experts sounded a positive tone throughout the conference, but stressed the all-important mantra of “If you see something, say something.”
“Jewish Americans will stay open for business,” Goldenberg said. “There will be no one who spooks us.”