Armed guards bid for Jewish institutions dismissed as ‘unrealistic’


The Community Security Trust has rejected an "unhelpful" petition which calls on the government to provide armed security for synagogues and Jewish institutions.

Thousands of people have so far backed the campaign but CST warned that the possibility of having armed guards was both "unrealistic" and could inadvertently increase the security risk at schools and other community buildings.

The petition was started by campaigner Moses Hoffman and had received more than 5,445 signatures by Wednesday. It calls on Britain to follow the example of European governments which are already "providing armed security for synagogues and Jewish institutions following numerous fatal terror attacks".

But Dave Rich, CST's deputy communications director, highlighted that British police were "mostly unarmed" and added: "The terrorist threat is serious, but CST, police, government and communal organisations all do their utmost to protect our community; and we have done so for years, at a cost of many millions of pounds and thousands upon thousands of hours' work.

"This effort already provides significant security benefits for our community and it is unhelpful for this petition to focus attention on what kind of specific security measures may or may not already exist."

Mr Rich said it was "better to remain calm, alert and focused and not to be distracted by unrealistic demands".

Mr Hoffman, of Golders Green, north-west London, argued: "Our synagogues and schools do not have the adequate security to protect against a fatal attack. Antisemitism is evolving from verbal or physical attacks to fatal terror attacks.

"How can a policeman or guard without a gun or even a knife protect hundreds of schoolchildren or others from such a threat? We shouldn't wait for something serious to happen before deciding to change to armed security."

An internal CST email seen by the JC distanced the group and its volunteers from the petition but acknowledged an "increasing number of enquiries about the campaign".

"CST does not support the petition because it is unrealistic and therefore never going to succeed. It is also bad for security," the email said.

In March, CST secured an additional £3 million of government funding for synagogue security. The JC had run a Secure Our Shuls campaign, which was praised by David Cameron as he unveiled the extra money.

At the time, CST chairman Gerald Ronson said he hoped to equip all volunteer guards with stab and bullet-proof vests.

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