Canada’s Jewish community establishes citizen security service to thwart anti-Semitic threats
Community Security Network is first of its kind in Canada; volunteers to patrol and monitor Jewish sites and institutions.
The Canadian Jewish community has decided to establish a citizen security service, for the first time in the country’s history, in light of the growing anti-Semitism in the country and around the world.
The security service will be run by the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a Canadian Jewish lobby, to protect Jewish citizens and locations frequented by members of the community. The program, called “Community Security Network,” will operate parallel to, and in coordination with, local security services. The pilot program will take place in Toronto, home to the largest Jewish community in Canada of about 200,000 people. Following that, the program will be replicated in all Jewish communities around the country.
At the head of the initiative is Doron Horowitz, an Israeli and former Israel Defense Forces combat soldier who volunteers in army reserves and currently works as the National Security Director for The Centre for Jewish & Israeli Affairs. Horowitz was once a security officer of the Jewish Federation in Toronto, and was recently promoted to securing the community on a national level.
The CSN invites all Canadian Jews aged between 20 and 50 years old to join the service, from which 25 people will be selected on the basis of physical and psychological fitness. Before starting their work, the volunteers will undergo physical training and professional skills courses including fighting, identification of suspicious behavior and objects, preventative actions like scanning areas before crowds gather, and others.
On duty, the volunteers will patrol and monitor Jewish locations, including schools, synagogues, museums, nursing homes and other Jewish institutions. During the night and on religious holidays, the security network will be expanded.
Furthermore, the volunteers will not wear uniform and will not carry weapons, in accordance with Canadian law, which prevents registered security officers from being armed. As such, the CSN will attempt to prevent hazards via security conversations and by reporting information on the event or suspect to law enforcement authorities.
Horowitz said the initiative is being conducted in cooperation with police forces. “We are not a substitute for the police,” said Horowitz, who added that the police commissioner supports the project.
Horowitz said the CSN is in its initial stages of recruitment and thus far there have been many applicants, but not all are suitable. “We obviously prefer those with military background, but it is important for us to have people with rational discretion. This is a professional operation, not one that is based on emotions, ideology or politics,” he said.
The Canadian Jewish community, which today stands at some 380,000 people, has suffered in the past from anti-Semitism mainly from radical right-wing groups, which was predominantly expressed between the two world wars. A recent report by B’nai B’rith on anti-Semitism in Canada showed more than 1,300 anti-Semitic incidents in 2010, three percent more than in 2009, which saw a rise in light of Operation Cast Lead. The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism published a report six months ago about phenomenon of anti-Semitism and found a rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments, especially at universities.
According to Horowitz, the Jewish community is the only group in Canada to establish a security network independent to that of the state. “We understand that we are entering a period in which we don’t know what to expect, and understand that there is a potential threat upon us,” said Horowitz. “Of course there is also a concern among people that we do not have a culture of security awareness and must educate the community slowly, but we decided to take responsibility for the Jewish community of the state.”
The Canadian Jewish community currently maintains a neighborly relationship with some of members of the Muslim community, and is well aware of the extremist elements within it. He points out that the CSN is directed toward thwarting future occurrences and that he has no up-to-date intelligence information on any intention by Muslim groups to harm Jewish targets, however does not deny the negative impact anti-Semitism has on the quality of life and security of members of the community. He also said that while anti-Semitic attacks do not happen every week, “it is not uncommon, unfortunately, and we cannot afford to be complacent.”