CSS to Expand Its Services to the Los Angeles Jewish Community


CSS to Expand Its Services to the Los Angeles Jewish Community

Yehudis Litvak

Community Security Service (CSS) will be expanding its services in the L.A. area. Founded ten years ago in New York, CSS provides training in professional security techniques to any Jewish institution that turns to them for its security needs. CSS’s mission is to “protect the lives and way of life of all members of the American Jewish community.”

Until recently, most of CSS’s work took place in the northeastern United States. Last year, due to local interest and generous sponsors, CSS came to Los Angeles. Currently, CSS is completing a pilot program in two local shuls and is planning its expansion throughout the Los Angeles Jewish community.

First graduating class in Los Angeles

CSS works in conjunction with other local organizations, such as local and federal agencies and other Jewish institutions. “We have a wonderful police department,” says David Bacall, Director of West Coast Operations at CSS, “but their job is to react when something happens. That’s not always good enough for our targeted community.” CSS’s goal is to be proactive in preventing terror attacks. According to the FBI, more than 60% of all religious hate crimes target Jews.

The success of CSS lies in its volunteers – community members who are especially trained for the task by the CSS professionals. The training is similar to the techniques employed by Israeli security services. “It’s a very defensive security training,” says Bacall, explaining that the volunteers are taught to spot suspicious activity. “Attacks are planned weeks, months, even years before they actually take place,” he says. Before terrorists carry out an attack, they spend a significant amount of time gathering information – taking pictures of the target location, getting inside pretending to daven, watching it to determine its busiest hours, as well as times when it would be easiest to infiltrate the building. “We train the members of the shul how to spot those information collectors,” Bacall says.

He adds that the presence of the CSS volunteers is in itself a deterrent for potential terrorists. The volunteers are easily noticeable – they wear special jackets with lapel pins as well as surveillance microphones. When information gatherers realize that they would be noticed, they rule out that location and look for an easier target.

Institutions interested in increasing their security need not worry that the presence of CSS volunteers would discourage new attendees. The volunteers are trained to be friendly and welcoming. For example, if a volunteer sees a new person entering their shul, they can approach that person and extend a hearty welcome, while learning about them in the natural course of conversation. Meanwhile, the volunteer pays careful attention not only to the answers, but to facial expressions and body language, to see if anything about the newcomer arouses suspicion.

CSS consults a rabbinical board to ensure that its operation takes place in accordance with halachah. They provide the trainees with guidelines on how to conduct their patrols on Shabbos, similar to Hatzolah’s guidelines.

CSS will be opening up its services to all shuls and Jewish institutions in the Greater Los Angeles area. CSS can be contacted through its website, http://www.thecss.org.