Small shuls rely on good police rapport

By Leon Symons, September 21, 2010

The sight of men and women standing outside synagogues on security duty on High Holy Days and festivals has become commonplace in London, Manchester, Glasgow and other major centres.

But what happens in the dozens of small communities scattered around the country?

Gabriel Lancaster at Chatham Memorial Synagogue in Kent said the 40 member synagogue, founded in 1750, has a very good rapport with its local police.

"We are in close contact with the community officer and they do more than is necessary," said Mr Lancaster. "On very rare occasions the Community Security Trust comes to give advice but we rely on the police, who drive past regularly. "

Martin Morris at Stoke Hebrew Congregation, with 22 members, said: "Sometimes I will stand at the door for an hour but we don't have people who kick up trouble. There is a large Asian community here, but we have good relations with them.

"We have a couple of panic buttons and the local police do drive past. I think most people don't know we're there."

Jerry Sibley is the shamash at Plymouth, the oldest continuously-used synagogue building in the country, built in 1762, with now just 35 members. He said: "We don't get any incidents down here. We might get the odd drug addict or drunk wandering in, but they're not anti-anyone, just life.

"The CST calls one of our members who is the terrorist threat person and we are kept aware of everything."

Coventry's lone synagogue has its own take on security. President Martin Been said: "We are very small (35 members) and our services are not always in the same place. It wouldn't be easy for people to find out where we were holding a service."

Last updated: 2:53pm, September 21 2010