Teaneck—Now more than ever, the Jewish community faces acute security challenges. With Israel under fire and anti-Jewish violence in Paris making headlines this week alone, the Jewish community continually seeks solutions to protect its members and keep them safe. One such organization with a sophisticated answer to security concerns is the Community Security Service (CSS). Founded in 2007 by security professionals, the CSS is a nonprofit organization that trains volunteers from their own synagogue communities in professional operational security approaches, including counter-surveillance and risk assessments.
The more than 3,000 people who have been trained by CSS have saved millions of dollars to their member organizations, but the cost savings is not their primary focus. Rather, their unparalleled knowledge of their institutions enable them to act as adept and sophisticated “eyes and ears” for the police.
“As we watch with horror the videos and images hailing from Paris to Israel we are fortunate to have an organization such as CSS in our midst,” said former federal prosecutor Michael Wildes, a community member who is a former two-term mayor of Englewood. “CSS partners with the organized Jewish community, governmental authorities and the police, and operates on a strictly non-political and non-denominational basis,” he said.
“CSS acts as a force multiplier for law enforcement by engaging a key element that is often overlooked in discussions about security: the community,” said David Dabscheck, CSS’s founder and president. “Our volunteers play a crucial role in complementing a synagogue’s security, as they have the cultural familiarity to identify suspicious behavior and out-ofplace objects in their environments, thereby addressing a situation long before it escalates into a serious incident,” he said. Dabscheck also noted that central to CSS’s methodology involves working closely with a wide range of strategic partners and law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and Secure Community Network (SCN), which is the national homeland security initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“With the war in Israel and the escalating threats to Jewish communities throughout the world and in the U.S., many community members have volunteered to join us so they can help protect their families, friends, and synagogues in a responsible and useful way,” said Deena Seelenfreund, CSS’s regional manager for New Jersey. “We are receiving requests from numerous synagogues and communities throughout New Jersey to join our network, before the higher risk time of the High Holidays,” she added.
“Members volunteer their time in order to serve as the eyes of the community to detect and deter possible threats at an early stage, and to defend the community if necessary. The recent anti-Israel protests and riots around the world have reminded us once again of the need for Jews to remain alert and vigilant against those who would do us harm. While we are blessed in the U.S. to be largely exempt from the antisemitism that has gripped Europe, extremists do exist and we must be ready,” said Eli Davidovics, CSS New Jersey operations manager.
CSS also helps to secure some of the largest and most visible special events and galas of the community, such as those organized by Birthright, Chabad, and the Friends of the IDF. “Because of the current situation we have also been flooded by requests to help secure the solidarity rallies that have been occurring in communities across the country,” Seelenfreund said. “Everyone at the moment feels the need to contribute and stand together, and we feel privileged that we can play this unique role at this difficult time.”
CSS currently operates in three states and in dozens of synagogues. “We have received requests from communities across the country to bring this model to them, as there is a growing recognition that managing our security needs in an efficient and effective manner is one issue that affects us all equally,” said Seelenfreund.
Those interested in donating to the CSS or in volunteering may visit http://www.thecss.org, or email [email protected].
By Elizabeth Kratz, with additional reporting by Benjy Kleiner and Yanky Krinsky