As 5783 comes to a close, I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude. It is a privilege to continue to serve this community and be part of its holy work. The support, patience, and encouragement I, and our entire team, have received as we have navigated COVID-19 and growing security concerns speaks to who we are, and I could not be prouder of this congregation. Thank you for your trust and your support.
Before we come together to welcome in the New Year, I wanted to take a moment to update you on the steps we have taken to ensure the safety and security of our community.
Our Executive Director, Beth Blackman, and I met with the head of MetroWest’s Security Team this morning and were gratified to find that we are in excellent shape. Thanks to our NJ Homeland Security Grants, we have been able to increase our building’s security, along with the security personnel we can hire; and thanks to the generous donations that have come into our Security Endowment, we are as prepared as possible to deal with emergent situations.
Over the Holy Days, we are increasing our security detail and will have SOPD patrol cars positioned on our property. We are taking these precautions in light of the national climate, but please know there are NO THREATS at this time.
As I shared in a Shabbat message last month, however, swatting incidents have continued, and there have been several instances in our area. While swatting is a nuisance—and to date not a physical threat—the police must respond if they receive a call.
To help prevent this from happening, we have password-protected our livestreams. (Swatters often seek out congregations that are live streaming so they can watch the evacuation in real-time. Locking down our streams makes us a less-attractive target.)
If there IS a swatting incident over the Holy Days, we will follow the guidance of the SOPD. An announcement will be made from the bimah, and our security detail will inform those gathered in other parts of our building. If the SOPD asks us to evacuate, we will quickly move out the main sanctuary doors and gather AT THE BACK OF THE PARKING LOT NEAR THE FENCE. Please listen to the ushers and follow their directions so we can leave the building in a calm and organized way. Our ushers will help those with limited mobility. Thank you to everyone who has volunteered to usher this year.
As soon as we are given the “all clear,” we will return to our service and resume worship.
The swatters want to disrupt our community. In the unlikely event that we are swatted, the best way for us to push back against them is to follow police directions and then resume worship immediately.
I understand that each of us will have to make the most comfortable decision for ourselves and our families, but staying and returning to worship will be a powerful statement to one another and those seeking to intimidate us.
To be clear: There are no current threats. Rather, I am sharing this information out of an abundance of caution.
I look forward to seeing all of you as we welcome the New Year, 5784.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,
Rabbi Daniel M Cohen