Following the discovery of three homemade pipe bombs in Wayne on Sunday, the town’s Jewish community, already on heightened alert after two attempted synagogue bombings in the Bronx last month, assessed its security procedures and believes they are, for the most part, up to date.
“Since the Bronx incident happened we’ve had more surveillance over here from the sheriff’s department,” said Rabbi Michel Gurkov of the Chabad Center of Passaic County in Wayne. “That’s gratifying to see – the authorities themselves are increasing surveillance,” he added, noting that the patrols were at the behest of the police and not Chabad.
The center is a little more than a mile away from where the explosives were found, making it the closest Jewish organization to the site. “It makes it much closer to home,” Gurkov said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
In light of the incident, the organization plans to hire a professional to help it apply for a federal grant to update its security.
For the past few years, synagogues, day schools, federations, and other Jewish organizations have received funding from the Urban Area Security Initiative Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Thirteen New Jersey nonprofit organizations shared $834,680 under the program last year. Ten of those organizations were Jewish institutions.
Among them were Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford and Jewish Family Service of Bergen County and North Hudson in Teaneck, which each received grants of $75,000. UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey received a grant of $100,000 in 2007.
Security enhancements the funds have purchased include cameras, card key entry devices, exterior lighting, Jersey barriers, shatterproof glass, and intruder alert systems.
The 2009 recipients have not yet been announced.
When police detonated the explosives, Rabbi Stephen Wylen of Temple Beth Tikvah, who lives half a mile away, took notice. Despite his location, he said that since none of the weapons were found near a Jewish institution, there was little concern about this specific incident.
“I don’t think we’re taking it personally at all,” Wylen said. “Police keep a good eye on our building and parking lot. They’ve been vigilant and will continue to be vigilant.”
Rabbi Randall Mark of Cong. Shomrei Torah was out of town when the news broke. He first heard about it on the radio and said his reaction was one of shock that something like this could happen in Wayne. Like Wylen, he did not see a cause for alarm.
“We began to review security protocols after what happened in the Bronx,” he said. “Post-9/11, it’s a whole different world. [Security is] something we’ve looked at periodically, we’ve maintained. It’s always a good idea to stop and take stock.”
At the YM-YWHA of North Jersey, executive director Steve Allen pointed to the building’s 16 security cameras and said the administration is “constantly reviewing” its security protocols.
“We feel secure in how we are presenting ourselves to the public,” he said. “We feel very confident that we’re doing at this moment what we need to do to continue to function on a day-to-day basis.”
Allen grew up in Riverdale and had his bar mitzvah at the Riverdale Temple, one of the sites targeted last month. That event hit much closer to home, he said, while Sunday’s incident has “really had no effect.”
Police found the three pipe bombs in a wooded area off Wayne’s Cole Road on Sunday. The devices were safely detonated and police arrested Joseph Boniface, 20, of Wayne Monday morning on charges of possession of a destructive device and causing widespread panic. He was released on $10,000 bail. A second individual, in jail on an unrelated charge, is expected to face charges as well.
Police believe the bombs were built and left in the woods last summer. What the suspects’ intentions were is unknown, said Wayne Police Chief Donald Stouthamer on Tuesday. There are no indications of other hidden bombs, he said, adding, “We don’t feel there’s any reason for anyone to have further concern.”
Wayne is divided into nine patrol zones, Stouthamer explained. Within each zone is a list of what the department calls “soft targets,” which include synagogues, churches, and utility plants, that get extra patrols. While Jewish institutions are among the soft targets, Stouthamer said Sunday’s incident should not be of particular concern.