A week before the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, marking the Jewish New Year, places of worship in North Texas are placing a renewed emphasis on security.
Outside the front door of Congregation Beth-El in Fort Worth on Sunday, a group of about 30 congregants received advice on what to do if someone shows up with the intent to cause harm .
This is part of the formation of Secure Community Network, which serves as the safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America.
The 90-minute mix of threat assessment training and situational awareness is part of an ongoing process of preparedness, according to Barry Abels.
“Everyone will be much more prepared if something were to happen,” Abels said.
Abels is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
He spent part of his Sunday participating in a series of hands-on, hands-on exercises for any situation someone in a place of worship may encounter.
“Right now we are approaching the major Jewish holidays so we are trying to be extra vigilant to help people understand personal safety,” Abels said.
Although the training deals with what-if scenarios, Abels said it was not difficult to draw inspiration from real events.
In January, a rabbi and 3 Colleyville worshipers were taken hostage during a prayer service.
Everyone at Congregation Beth Israel escaped after 11 hours of captivity before the shooter was killed.
The same workout was scheduled at the Colleyville Temple on Sunday afternoon.
“I think it’s a bit different because of everything that’s happened,” Abels said.
In addition to the training, a panel scheduled for Sunday evening plans to include representatives from the Fort Worth, Arlington and Colleyville police departments as well as the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office.
Abels said that although this weekend’s training takes place in a religious setting, the skills are meant for everyday use.
“Any place of worship, any workplace should have similar training because you never know what’s going to happen,” Abels said. “If you’re an organization or worship community that’s not doing anything about safety and security, now’s the time to think about it.”