Securing a Sanctuary

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Chabad-Lubavitch is a branch of orthodox Judaism founded in the late 18th century in Russia. Today, Chabad has more than 3,000 community centers, synagogues, schools, and other facilities in approximately 70 countries. One of these was Nariman House, a site targeted by Pakistani militants in November 2008 during the horrific attacks in Mumbai, India. The terrorists took hostages in Nariman House and murdered Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who ran the outreach center.

Even in the United States, Chabad facilities and their members have been the targets of violence. For example, in April 2011, a pipe bomb exploded in the parking lot of a Chabad house in Santa Monica, California. In 2009, Nazi swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti were sprayed across the exterior of an El Paso, Texas, Chabad center, and in 2011, the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Center of Boise, Idaho, suffered a similar defacement. In addition to being at risk of attack by white supremacists and other anti-Semites, the group also is seen as extreme by some in other Jewish denominations. Those opposing Chabad have created Web sites with stark language such as “no Jewish child is safe in a Chabad school,” for example.

Jeffrey A. Slotnick, CPP, PSP, president of Setracon, Inc., of Tacoma, Washington, is the chair of the ASIS International Physical Security Council and a member of the ASIS Critical Infrastructure Working Group. He offered his services pro bono to help build in security from the ground up for a new Chabad House in an urban area of Washington State. Slotnick is a consultant who has worked with various high-profile religious institutions including churches, synagogues, mosques, and private schools affiliated with religious organizations. He has also assisted various houses of worship in preparing U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) nonprofit security grant request forms that have resulted in approximately $800,000 given to the applicants.

The rabbi of the Chabad House that Slotnick assisted gave permission for Slotnick to describe the security issues and the security system that resulted, although he did not want the facility named, nor did he want to comment in this article himself.

“The synagogue is a new structure based on a very historic design,” Slotnick explains. It was built to replicate an existing facility that serves as a synagogue in New York, where the Chabad movement came into full bloom in the second half of the 20th century under the leadership of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.


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