TORONTO — The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is looking for a few good men and women.
It’s organizing a recruitment drive to find Jewish volunteers to train in the arts of passive observation and prevention to increase the sense of security in Canada’s major Jewish population centres.
The initiative is called the “community security network” and is touted as being similar to a neighbourhood watch program, only on a national scale.
Doron Horowitz, CIJA’s director of national security infrastructure and head of the new initiative, told The CJN that the project aims to have the Canadian Jewish community take more responsibility for its own security and project the image that it’s looking out for itself.
“We will be less reliant on external [security] resources and will… complement law enforcement,” he said. “This is the Jewish community taking an active role in [its own] security on a civilian level.”
Horowitz will begin training 25 volunteers in Toronto starting next month before eventually recruiting members in Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary and Vancouver, although not necessarily in that order.
(One notable exception is Montreal, where the Jewish community has its own security program in place, for which Horowitz said he’s serving as an adviser.)
Recruits will not carry or use weapons, and training sessions in Toronto will take place at unnamed facilities around town, he said.
Horowitz – a security specialist and a decorated ex-Israeli Defence Forces officer, with specialized training in counter-terrorism – said he hopes to bring in local police to speak to the volunteers to help them understand their role and limitations.
Most of the training, he said, won’t be physical in nature. Instead, it will focus on preventative measures and methods.
One way the community security network can help police is by accurately reporting details to investigators about crimes or suspicious activities, he said.
“If we have individuals who are trained on how to take the proper description of a person, or how to get involved in thorough, professional response to [police] queries, that helps law enforcement help us,” Horowitz said.
Trainees will learn about counter-surveillance methods, as well how to conduct proper patrols and how to recognize signs of suspicious activity, Horowitz said.
“We’re not training individuals on how to engage. We’re training them how to react, think objectively, keep a distance and stay out of harm’s way in order to protect the members of the community.”
He said this last point differentiates the community security network from more militant organizations that either verbally or physically engage “hostile individuals.”
Some people might want to volunteer for his group because of personal ideology, but anyone who is motivated by “extreme or radical thinking” will be rejected, he said.
Horowitz said an applicant who has a vigilante attitude, is aggressive or is looking to instigate fights won’t pass his screening process, which will involve medical and background checks.
Asked why this initiative is being undertaken now, he said the current anti-Israel climate means it’s “more likely than not” that threats will increase against Jewish communities and now is a “good time to prepare.”
But he added that “the Jewish community has, is and will always be under a certain amount of threat. What’s important is for us to focus less on the intention of our enemies and more on what we should do to establish a [security] standard that will allow us to operate and fluctuate based on the threat.”
Horowitz said Canada and Canadian Jews aren’t the prime targets for terrorists, but they’re relatively high on the list.
“Europe, Africa and South America are more attractive for logistical and political reasons. But Canada, given that nothing has happened here and we’re in a liberal society, for better or worse, lends itself to be attractive to those who wish to cause harm,” he said.
“Radical militant Islam is active here. Canadian authorities are going to have to learn to deal with radical Islam, and I think they are starting to learn. But understanding something and doing something about it are two different things.”
Horowitz said he’ll consider all applicants, regardless of religious or organizational affiliation. As long the person is “Jewish, cares, is capable and is a rational thinker, I’ll train you.”
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