Securing a Sanctuary

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

“This particular community has come under significant threat in the past several years,” Slotnick explains. “They were the victims in the attack in Mumbai and have been subject to various acts of anti-Semitism around the world…. I have done training for [Chabad-Lubavitch] internationally, as well as a number of risk threat and vulnerability assessments for various institutions in support of nonprofit security grants, so it was a natural progression of ‘We are going to build this. We know we need security. Will you work with us on this?’”

The new Chabad House includes a synagogue, an office for the rabbi, and multiple rooms and halls for the use of the members. It can accommodate a congregation of about 150. “The issue is, for many houses of worship, how do you balance the requirements and needs of a secure environment while providing a facility that is open and welcoming to the people who want to come in?” says Slotnick.

He began by conducting a risk assessment. “The first part of designing any physical security system is to understand the potential threats and consequences,” he states. Armed with his results, Slotnick helped the rabbi submit an application for a DHS grant. DHS granted $71,000 last October.

As the project got underway, Slotnick worked closely with the rabbi and the project’s architects, “because not only is the security system an issue,” he explained, “but I wanted to ensure that we had ‘crime prevention through environmental design’ principles applied in the lighting and landscaping.”

For example, the design plans called for a green strip of trees between the parking area and the sidewalk. “I wanted to put the trees in planters that are devices to prevent cars from driving up on the sidewalk and crashing into the front door of the synagogue. So we worked with a landscape designer to get the appropriate tree and the right size pot that was rated for impact,” he says.

As another example, the rabbi had envisioned strong exterior lighting, but Slot­nick thought that a better alternative was a less powerful down-lighting. This would work with the infrared video-analytic cameras he wanted to use as well as not blast the neighbors with industrial-strength brightness.


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