Synagogues here early movers on security

The Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street, one of two synagogues here.
The Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street, one of two synagogues here.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

From having volunteers trained to react to emergencies to a team focused on security issues, synagogues here have been early movers in beefing up security, said the Jewish Welfare Board member who oversees synagogue security.

While security has become a bigger concern for the Jewish community in Singapore, given the growing terrorist threat, the community feels very safe here.

Sharing his thoughts on measures taken by the Jewish community, Mr Simcha Sharon said: "Since the day I came to Singapore in 1980, the mercury has been rising."

"It used to in a slow way," he added, but now "the pace (is getting) higher".

"In the past year, you start hearing about security measures that were never there before, like security in MRT and bus stations... This is the new normal.

"I am sure all holy places in Singapore... will have to consider tighter measures due to the new reality. We were early risers in this sense."

Mr Sharon, a 63-year-old businessman, said the community does what it can with its own limited resources and through a "very fruitful and fantastic relationship with the police and all other security stakeholders".

"Self-reliance means that we have a team dedicated to only security issues to serve the community. We are fortunate to have people of Israeli origin who have combat and security backgrounds to assist and advise us," he explained.

He said regular safety and security drills involving various scenarios are conducted at synagogue premises. In addition, volunteers are grouped into teams for emergencies. Self-defence training is also conducted for community members. "Another layer is very thorough training for our security guards to manage various situations," he added.

There are two synagogues here, one in Oxley Road and the other in Waterloo Street. The synagogues are often visited by interest groups such as schools.

"We feel very safe in our place, given how Singapore is already a safe place. The envelope around us is very secure, so this is the premise that we are working on."

K.C. Vijayan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Synagogues here early movers on security'. Print Edition | Subscribe