East Rutherford, NJ – Hundreds of New Jersey State Police Officers to Provide Security at Siyum HaShas
East Rutherford, NJ – With the historic Siyum HaShas gathering on Aug 1 2012, at MetLife Stadium rapidly approaching, VIN News spoke with Maj. Gerald Lewis, Jr. of the New Jersey State Police’s Office of Community Affairs on the equally historic preparations currently underway.
Lewis declined to clarify the exact number of NJSP officers to be on hand during the event. The contingent will be “large,” Lewis insisted, only allowing that “several hundred” will be present.
But in speaking further with Maj. Lewis, as well as to a number of Jewish community activists heavily involved in the event’s logistics, a clearer picture emerged.
According to Yanky Meyer of Misaskim, the multifaceted organization tapped to handle logistics by event host Agudath Israel of America, a rough total of 1,500 personnel are expected.
These include officers with the New Jersey State Police, the Port Authority Police Department, New Jersey Transit, the FBI, the NYPD and the East Rutherford Police Department.
Several dozen teams of bomb-sniffing canine teams will be on hand, inspecting each vehicle upon entry to parking areas, Meyer said.
A handful of police helicopters will be in the air throughout the event. Local bus and train stations will be subjected to heightened scrutiny and coverage. Snipers will be keeping sharp lookouts from key rooftop positions in and around the stadium. Even area hotels hosting Siyum guests will be enjoying extra security.
“We understand the magnitude of the event,” said Maj. Lewis, adding, “We understand people being at such an event for the first time.”
To allow for that understanding, several hundred State Police officers underwent an eight-hour sensitivity training course on Orthodox religious culture and social norms in the weeks before the events. The training was led by Jack Meyer Of Misaskim and Abe Friedman NJSP Chaplain.
Mr. Friedman provided a brief overview of Jewish laws and customs as they pertain to expected behavior at the event.
“They understand that this is a unique event that never happened before in the U.S.,” said Friedman, asked for the officers’ reaction. “It’s not a game.”
As such, Friedman apprised the officers, attendees can be expected to be of serious demeanor—but also nervous due to the heavy security at the event as well as the recent unrelated incidents in Bulgaria and Colorado.
“Those didn’t make things any better,” said Meyer, noting that “the one lone wolf who slips in under the radar” is always the greatest threat.
The stadium’s 84,000 regular seats are fully booked, according to Siyum HaShas Chief Operating Officer Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin, with several thousand additional seats to be temporarily arranged on the huge venue’s floor.
Details as to which Roshei Yeshivos, Admorim and other Torah dignitaries are to be in attendance will not be released until later, to prevent a “piecemeal” dissemination of information, Rabbi Gertzulin said.
However, another source told VIN that leading rabbis from 30 countries will be attending, including several from Israel who have never before visited the United States.
Additionally, Rabbi Gertzulin noted, the entire stadium will be under lockdown beginning the Sunday before the event. It will also be swept twice daily from that point on for any suspicious items, according to Lewis.
To keep the capacity crowd safe and healthy, over 150 volunteer members of Hatzalah will join the stadium 50 staff EMTs to provide adequate emergency medical coverage.
With an older crowd and summer heat expected, dehydration is a primary concern; emergency cooling stations will therefore be set up strategically across the venue.
Hatzalah is “working closely with stadium personnel” to ensure the crowd’s safety, Hatzalah CEO David Cohen told VIN. Despite the event officially beginning at the evening hour of 7:00 p.m., when temperatures are expected to have cooled, Cohen advised Siyum-goers “to drink a lot of water.”
Individual attendees will be permitted to bring in personal food items such as danishes. Drinks will also be allowed in 20-ounce bottles or smaller.
The event official also urged attendees to avoid private transportation and use the charter buses streaming to the event from 11 different regional pick-up points.
What’s the most important thing Siyum-goers should know?
To “expedite” security checks and stadium entry, said Rabbi Gertzulin, attendees should “arrive early and bring as little as possible.”
“Leave yourself plenty of time,” added Meyer.
But if there is one thing Siyum-goers need to know vis-a-vis security threats, it’s that there are “no security threats. None of these [precautions] are in response to any [planned terror] event,” said Maj. Lewis. “We’ve left no stone unturned.”
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