Jewish Institutions in U.S. Warned to Take Extra Security Precautions

Jewish institutions across the United States have been warned they should review security precautions in light of the increased threat of terrorism on U.S. soil that a war in the Persian Gulf is likely to generate.

The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council late last week sent out an advisory to its more than 100 member agencies, recommending that security arrangements for office buildings, community centers, synagogues, cemeteries and other communal facilities be double-checked.

The advisory urges caution when handling unusual or suspicious looking parcels, and it suggests Jewish agencies consider employing private security services.

“We wanted all the organizations and agencies to review their arrangements, specifically in light of reports of threats of increased potential for terrorist activity attendant to the Gulf crisis,” said Jerome Chanes, NJCRAC’s co-director of domestic concerns.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has repeatedly warned that any U.S. facility could become a target of terrorism if hostilities break out, and some Palestinian leaders have echoed his claims.

Officials of Jewish organizations, usually careful in the best of times, are now packing security seminars and ordering a special booklet, “Security for Community Institutions,” published by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

JEWS COULD BE BLAMED FOR CASUALTIES

While it is unclear whether terrorists would specifically target American Jewish facilities, some community leaders say that if Israel is drawn into a war against Iraq, an attack on Jewish targets would become more likely.

Some also say that if Hussein is successful in blaming the hostilities on Israel, it could spur U.S. hate groups to attack Jewish institutions.

“If Israel begins to be held responsible for body bags coming back to the United States, I’m not sure what the response will be,” said Harriet Bogard, New York regional director for the ADL, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents.

Unconnected with the Gulf crisis, ADL last fall started organizing security seminars in New York after a spate of pipe bomb incidents in the area. But the potential for war in the Gulf, and the concurrent higher risk for Jewish organizations, has prompted ADL to focus seminars specifically on terrorist threats.

Meanwhile, the Rabbinical Assembly is forming a crisis committee to share information and mobilize rabbis, said Irwin Groner, president of the Conservative rabbinic organization.

The committee will hold meetings via conference call as top leaders assess the crisis, coordinate support for Israel and monitor any threats in the United States, he said.

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