Is there anything Jews can do to improve their safety? We put this question to Sholem Klein, the Coordinator of the Rockaway/Nassau Shomrim, a group of volunteers that works closely with Nassau County Police as well as the NYPD. This branch of Shomrim serves the Rockaway and Nassau communities.
“First and foremost, people need to keep their eyes and ears open,” he said. Police monitor intel and if chas v’shalom they detect increased danger, they will notify the community. Shomrim has increased their 24/7 patrols of shuls and schools, wedding halls, and other venues in both marked and unmarked patrols.
Klein said it is incumbent upon community members to be vigilant and report anything out of the ordinary – for example, individuals who are acting strangely and those who see suspicious packages. Even things that seem minor can easily spiral into something more significant. “It’s an achrayus (responsibility) to call the police or Shomrim/Shmira any time of the day or night,” he said.
In light of the widespread attacks on Jews, Mr. Klein has other suggestions:
- Walk only in groups when possible.
- In the case of an attack, scream and run to the nearest phone.
- Take a license plate number if a vehicle is involved, and, if possible, check as to whether the front and back plates match. However, do not do this if it might jeopardize your personal safety.
- Try to get the make and model of any vehicle involved in an incident and be prepared to give details about the location of any suspicious activity. Also, note any pertinent information about the people in the vehicle including their race, height, weight, hair color, and the clothing they are wearing. This information could help authorities if there is any available video of the event or if the DA chooses to charge anyone with a crime.
Given the current climate, shuls and schools and other Jewish buildings and organizations also should implement improved safety measures, including more security at the front door. And he recommends that extra cameras that face the street need to be installed; these could record the activities of people approaching or passing by. Security cameras typically face the house/building and do not record those activities.
For suspicious activity generated by a person on a bike, note details about the person if possible, such as hair color, height, weight, gender, description of his or her face, or other specific information that could be helpful to the police.
Families with children have to be especially cautious. Klein advises that children should not be allowed to play outside in a park or even in front of a home without adult supervision. Parents should alert their children that something is going on without frightening them. He urges people not to be fearful but rather to go on with their lives as usual – just remaining vigilant. “Report, but do not engage, any perpetrators,” he advises.
Shomrim/Shmira works closely with police, who have been very responsive in these situations. If someone is hurt, Hatzalah needs to be called immediately. Attacks can and have occurred any time of the day and not exclusively at night. Klein advises people not to carry weapons. “Davening to Hashem is our weapon,” he says.