Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Police Chiefs throughout the county assured the Jewish community on Friday, Sept. 20, that their houses of worship are a security priority, particularly during High Holy Days.
The Sheriff’s Office, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in Morris County have steadily been building a dialogue with Jewish communities and leaders of Chabad outreach centers and previously met with them in June.
A follow-up community meeting on Friday, facilitated by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Captain Denise Thornton, gave Rabbi Levi Dubinsky, director of the Chabad Jewish Center that serves Mountain Lakes, Boonton and Denville, an opportunity to express an ongoing need and the community’s appreciation for security measures taken on behalf of Jewish worshippers.
People of the Jewish faith will be observing two major Holy Days in the next few weeks: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the most solemn time of prayer and atonement for Jewish people. Rabbi Dubinsky said attendance at services swell during High Holy Days and Rabbis want worshippers to feel comfortable and safe.
“The first thing on everyone’s mind today is security. What security is there? What security measures are in place?” Rabbi Dubinsky said. He said all Chabad and synagogue leaders should make the effort to build a strong working relationship with local police, even if they employ private security officers.
“There should be an open door policy,” Rabbi Dubinsky said. Also representing the Jewish community at the event was Robert A. Wilson, Chief Security Officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ.
In welcoming Rabbi Dubinsky, Sheriff Gannon presented him with credentials that identify him as a chaplain representing the Jewish community.
Sheriff Gannon, acknowledging strong partnerships with the Prosecutor’s Office and local police departments, explained that all 317 houses of worship in Morris County, including 34 synagogues, are part of a directed patrol regimen performed by the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT), a highly-trained tactical unit that travels the county checking sensitive areas and infrastructure sites.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Trends and Analysis Team (MCSTAT) works with multiple agencies, including the Prosecutor’s Office, to analyze intelligence and identify patterns of crime, Sheriff Gannon said. Jane Recktenwald, the Sheriff’s Systems Analyst who oversees MCSTAT, said more than 1,800 checks of religious institutions in Morris County have occurred so far this year and the diligence won’t cease.
“See something, say something. The littlest thing may be the most important thing,” Analyst Recktenwald said.
Sheriff Gannon said: “We always need to keep our eye on the ball. We have good intelligence, good partnerships, good people who can receive real time intelligence, with national security clearances.”
Prosecutor’s Office Lieutenant Jan Monrad advised that Jewish leaders consider contacting the Prosecutor’s Office to have security assessments performed on their facilities. SERT Commander Gino Fluri suggested that synagogues, at their convenience, allow SERT members to familiarize themselves with the facilities through training sessions within their walls.
Commander Fluri, along with Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul and Sheriff’s Office Detective Lieutenant Aaron Tomasini, a certified bomb technician, K-9 handler and member of SERT, emphasized the specialized training brought to the scene of every major incident.
“Our county is integrated. When we go on a call we bring every asset to that call,” Commander Fluri said.
As Rabbi Dubinsky urged Jewish leaders to reach out to their local police departments if they haven’t already, Analyst Recktenwald said all Morris County police departments will be alerted to the upcoming High Holy Days and urged to find out what services and special events are planned.
Sheriff Gannon noted in opening remarks at the meeting that terrorism remains a concern in affluent Morris County, and that he recently met a woman in Montville who told him she survived the Jewish Holocaust.
“We can take away their fears. That’s a lot of our jobs, to take away their fears. It’s raw, it’s local. We’re not here to scare anybody, but we’re here to say we have it well in hand,” Sheriff Gannon said.
The next community meeting between Jewish leaders and law enforcement agencies is tentatively planned for November.
Also attending Friday’s session were Mount Olive Police Chief Steve Beecher, Wharton Police Chief David Young, Morris County Park Police Chief Gabriel DiPietro, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Mark Spitzer, Chatham Township Police Chief Thomas Miller, Rockaway Township Police Chief Martin McParland, and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Captain Mark Chiarolanza and Officer Travis Somerville.