April 22, 2024
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Peretz Teller Seeks to Launch ‘Shomrim’ In the Passaic-Clifton Community

Peretz Teller has a vision: starting a Shomrim-styled organization in the Passaic-Clifton community. After the recent anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway, Monsey, Brooklyn and Jersey City, he thinks the need is clear. We need to be prepared.

Shomrim is known for increasing safety with neighborhood-watch-styled groups in various communities in America and the United Kingdom, among other countries with large Jewish enclaves. Primarily, Shomrim seeks to combat petty burglary, vandalism, muggings, assaults, domestic violence, nuisance crimes, anti-Semitic attacks, and as on-the-ground first responders to help and support victims of crime. They also help locate missing people. Shomrim are particularly useful in communities like Brooklyn, Baltimore and London, where their response time in terms of arriving at the scene of a crime or a crime in progress is often significantly better than police.

At a recent meeting in a Clifton home, Teller explained his goals to a small crowd.

“There has been a lot of talk about the need to increase security, but we need to actually do something. [The Passaic-Clifton Jewish community] may be only about 2 miles, including at least 38 shuls. It’s a small area, but a lot of ground to cover.”

Teller has been patrolling for the last five years as a volunteer for Mishmar Hagvul, the Israeli border police unit, and splits his time between the U.S. and Israel. He hopes to use his training and experience from Israel to help the American community. He works with another trainer, Yehoshua King, who has served in the IDF, and they are currently training a small group of men in self-defense tactics and security.

Everyone is already aware of the need for heightened security, and Teller thinks Shomrim could play a key role. Currently, the community is focusing on security on an institutional level, and each shul and school is implementing their own security initiatives. There is some coordination between them, but Teller says it’s not enough. No one is taking a holistic approach.

“The enemy didn’t sign a contract saying he’ll only attack inside a specific building. We need to protect the people wherever they are. Schools and shuls, but also shops and streets, and the public areas surrounding them.”

During the meeting, Teller mentioned topics on which he’d like the public to be educated, such as emergency medical techniques (for example, how to slow or stop bleeding on a wounded victim), and self-defense classes. “We need the whole community to be prepared to jump in and know what to do.”

He hopes to fundraise in order to find space to train larger groups, and to buy defensive equipment. He also needs to recruit more members. “We need numbers to help the community, the police, and the city understand what we’re about, and to deal with the security challenges we all face.”

Teller’s goal for the Shomrim is not to copy any other specific Shomrim organization from other communities, or to create full patrols. He thinks that for Passaic, with such a smaller, concentrated area, the focus needs to be on training larger groups of people.

By preparing Shomrim volunteers to respond as they go about their lives, but with defensive equipment that they could use for non-lethal interventions, they can hopefully contain situations, or even better, prevent them.

“We want to be a resource people can call if they see something, with a quick response time from someone around the corner,” Teller said. “But even better would be zero response time—if someone is already there. We need a lot of people to get involved, so we can have a lot of people on the ground.”

One of the women in attendance raised concerns about not everyone being suited for this type of training or patrol. Teller insists that he would never send someone out who isn’t fully ready and reliable.

“Even if not everyone can be a fully trained member, we hope to create a security mindset in the community. That’s what will make us all safer.”

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