Jews increasing security in SA

Synagogues around the country have increased security in recent weeks, putting up concrete barriers and closing roads during worship.

The synagogues are also protected by 24-hour security thanks to terrorism and anti-Semitic threats against the Jewish community.

On their website, the Great Park shul in Houghton said that to protect worshippers during Shabbat, Yom Tov and throughout the year, they have employed a trained security officer.

The Star called CSO (Community Security Organisation) this week to enquire about security upgrades at synagogues.

The journalist was told they had received prank calls from people pretending to be journalists and they needed to verify the journalist’s identity before they would speak.

The journalist was asked for her telephone numbers, what nationality her surname was, her e-mail address, the number of her newsdesk and who was on duty at that moment.

She was also asked if there were Jewish members at her office and who they were.

When The Star’s photographer went to take photos of security measures at shuls, he was stopped and asked for identification by security. He was later called and also interrogated in the same manner as the journalist and asked if his photograph could be seen. He did not allow this.

“A new secure parameter wall has just been built around the entire shul campus to better secure shul facilities,” the website said.

The Sandton shul said on their website that anyone wishing to enter the property may be subject to security questioning and/or searching.

Some of the security tips on the website relate to keeping safe, like leaving valuables at home while walking to shul.

Some of the other tips are:

* Do not accept and bring parcels (gifts, bags, food, etc) to the shul from any person other than your immediate family.

* Do not provide information about the shul to unknown people – refer them to the shul office for assistance.

* Do not walk to and from shul alone, but rather try to form walking groups.

* Do not leave any unidentified objects (gifts, bags, food, etc) lying in or around the shul – all unidentified objects may be removed by security and or the South African Police Service.

Joburg metro police (JMPD) spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said because of the safety of communities and the protection of properties, the JMPD was working with various bodies of the Jewish community during this period.

“There will be closures of some streets at different places and certain times,” Minnaar said.

These extra security measures are due to terrorism and anti-Semitic world events, members of the Jewish community said.

Mary Kluk, national chairwoman of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, said Jewish communities around the world were experiencing a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents and threats.

“Regrettably, the South African Jewish community is no exception and since the war in Gaza this anti-Semitic rhetoric has reached levels unseen for many decades.”

Kluk said they were concerned about an increased security risk to their community over holy days.

“Internationally, a number of countries have released statements about increased risk of terrorism worldwide and we believe the South African Jewish community is not immune to such threats,” she added.

Kluk said the community was working with the South African authorities to ensure precautions were taken to ensure their safety.

There had been a lot of anti-Semitic hate speech on social media since the war in Gaza, she pointed out.

She said organisations and individuals had received numerous threatening messages, one of which said: “Hitler was right, pity he didn’t finish off all Jews.”

There had been no direct threats to synagogues, Kluk said.

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said the security measures were part of “an unfortunate reality in the world where there is an increased threat of jihad terrorism”, and that this was a message that all South Africans needed to take seriously.