Local Expert Addresses Our Security Needs


Local Expert Addresses Our Security Needs

Yehudis Litvak

As the frequency of anti-Semitic incidents increases throughout the world, the Jewish community is reevaluating its current security procedures, seeking to increase security in our institutions. The Los Angeles Jewish community is fortunate to have members who are experts in the field of security and who see it as their mission to help local shuls and schools improve their security procedures.

One of these experts is Rabbi Raziel Cohen, also known as “the Tactical Rabbi,” founder and director of the National Defensive Firearms Training Academy (NDFT). Rabbi Cohen is the son of Nouriel and Yaelle Cohen, who head Global Kindness, an organization that distributes clothes, food, furniture, and other necessities to over 350 needy families in Los Angeles and around the world.

“I was raised to do chessed, to give back to the community,” says Rabbi Cohen. “I saw so many people experiencing abuse and unable to protect themselves, and I wanted to help community members learn how to protect themselves.”

To that end, Rabbi Cohen began his training with Competition Shooters and went on to train with different instructors in the U.S. and abroad. He was one of only seven people hand selected in the state of California to join a Special Forces training class, led by an active duty Navy Seal and a member of Australian Special Forces. He completed the course at the top of the class. Rabbi Cohen also trained in active shooter situations and surviving deadly encounters. Currently, Rabbi Cohen is a certified instructor under the Department of Justice, with multiple certifications under the NRA. Increasingly, local Jewish institutions have been turning to Rabbi Cohen for advice on improving their security.

At Jewish Home, we asked Rabbi Cohen what an average Jewish institution, or its members, needs to know in order to protect itself from a potential attack.

There are four levels of protection, explained Rabbi Cohen. Drawing a gun is the last step. Before ever getting to an armed confrontation, there are three steps of prevention that must be set in place in every institution at risk of attack.

The first step is setting up a deterrent that would discourage a potential attacker. An example of a deterrent is a guard at the door. Just the sight of the guard would inform an attacker that there is “an extra loop to be jumped” before he is able to cause any damage to the congregants inside the building. That in itself might be enough for the attacker to move on to an easier target.

The second step is early warning—a way for a guard or a shul member to notify the congregation of an approaching threat.

The third step is fortification—a lockdown procedure that ensures maximum protection for everyone inside.

The fourth, and final, step is confrontation, where a well-trained individual confronts and neutralizes the assailant. Rabbi Cohen emphasizes the importance of proper training. A weapon in the hands of someone without the training is a source of liability rather than help. Only a trained individual can respond appropriately under stress.

NDFT (https://www.ndftraining.com/) offers training for interested community members. In addition, Rabbi Cohen highly recommends a security audit for each Jewish organization. An NDFT representative comes to the facility and walks through it, pointing out potential security issues and possible improvements. The audit also covers bomb threats, fire hazards, earthquake preparedness, and other security protocols. A security audit is mandatory when applying for a security grant from the government.

Different institutions have different security needs, explains Rabbi Cohen. The audit is customized for each institution. For example, shuls like Chabad that have an open-door policy can be made more secure without turning anyone away. Smaller shuls have their own unique needs, especially if there are few options for hiding or escaping the building.

Another important factor in emergency preparedness is knowledge of first aid and availability of medical supplies, such as blood clotting agents and tourniquets. In active shooter situations, it takes time to secure the building. It may take a while until medical assistance arrives. There have been cases, explains Rabbi Cohen, where people have died from non-life-threatening injuries because no one was available to stop the bleeding. Rabbi Cohen recommends that each Jewish institution keeps the most current version of the CAT tourniquet on its premises. To learn how to use them, one can take a Stop the Bleed course, offered by the Department of Defense. More information can be found at https://www.bleedingcontrol.org/