A hostage situation can happen at any moment. The members of the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas know this well after a harrowing 11-hour standoff at their synagogue last month. But while security courses and training paid off for the congregation’s leader, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who threw a chair at the assailant before pushing the other hostages to flee, others in similar situations might not be so lucky.
The standoff drove many North Texas synagogues to request active threat training. It also prompted many Jewish places of worship, institutions, and community centers to take stock of their security measures. This week, the Jewish Federations of North America, or JFNA, embarked on an initiative called LiveSecure to raise $126 million across federations over the next three years to boost security in Jewish communities by launching new programs or enhancing existing ones, the Associated Press reported. They want to ensure that all 146 communities where Jewish federations are located have security hubs.
Meanwhile, an anonymous philanthropist reached out to Israeli-founded firm Gabriel Network and pledged $1 million to install the company’s security platform of smart crisis management tech in 500 locations across the United States. He has encouraged others to match his gift.
Gabriel Network CEO Yoni Sherizen tells NoCamels that the company’s security and surveillance system has been rolled out in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Michigan while interested parties in California, Tennessee, and Connecticut have reached out to learn more about the company.
“We’re also trying to work through local organizations, like federations or security directors, since they have the resources and it can be a win-win. They have the expertise and this can help them. And then they can help organize those communities,” he says.
“[The philanthropist’s] vision is to actually cover every single school and synagogue and get everyone on the same platform,” Sherizen says, “A donor needs other donors to step forward and really push it so it becomes a no-brainer for the organizations. Take money off the table so that everyone is on the same page. And so if something happens in one location it can be shared in other places and police can get access in real-time. All that stuff is a game-changer.”
Founded in 2016, Gabriel Network provides a security suite of products that warns of danger, improves the capabilities of first responders, and helps with crisis management in the critical first minutes of a situation before help has arrived. The platform includes a mix of proprietary sensors, mobile apps, and a surveillance system that can also be set up within existing camera systems.
There is also a smart shield, which starts the proactive response process through a gunshot detection alert or a “smart panic button,” with video and two-way communications streaming in real-time for first responders. Additionally, virtual command is provided through an intuitive intelligence dashboard with hot zone mapping, geo-fencing, and instant communication to mobile devices.
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“The technology connects into existing security systems — for example security cameras, panic buttons, locking doors — and then it pulls them into a very simple dashboard so you can create clear visibility of what’s going on in the situation. When there’s an incident, it pulls that information and creates a picture of what’s taking place. We also have a communications platform that sends out messages to all the smartphones in the area that are on the platform. What you’re able to do is actually manage that situation through this very simple dashboard. In tactical terms, it’s a command and control facility,” Sherizen says.”
“We automate a lot of processes,” he adds, “A lot of these processes exist in separate systems. Not everyone has all of the systems. What we’ve done is we’ve pulled them all together. We’ve integrated them, created a much simpler version, a much cheaper version, and we’ve automated the processes and the flow. It’s a network effect alert so that if something happening in one location, people in nearby locations or who have relationships with the place get early warnings that it’s dangerous. It can also provide visibility for law enforcement.”
Protection and security tech
Sherizen and Asaf Adler co-founded Gabriel in 2016 following a terror attack in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market that killed four people and a mass shooting that year at Pulse nightclub in Florida that killed 49 people.
“We realized if we could leverage technology to create a clear picture of what’s going on and get clear information to people very quickly, then you could dramatically change the way any major safety or security unfolds,” Sherizen explains.
The Gabriel team includes seven people who have all spent time in the Israeli army training in anti-terrorist units, cybersecurity, and software. Sherizen says the team also regularly meets with experts in the field including former Shin Bet and Mossad leadership and counts a former deputy director at the Mossad (secret service;) a former Israeli police chief; a former Shin Bet (internal security) director of overseas missions as advisers. Ryan Petty, the father of a Parkland school shooting victim is also on that team of advisers.
Sherizen tells NoCamels the name of the company, Gabriel is taken from the archangel of protection Gabriel that appears in the Book of Enoch and is described in the Hebrew Bible.
“He’s always there when you need it, but you don’t feel it. And then when you need it, it springs into action,” Sherizen says, “And that concept is prevalent in virtually every religion, every culture, and every language around the world. That was really important for us as an Israeli company that is providing technology that can and should be deployed literally around the world,” he adds, “We wanted a name that would transcend all cultures and be able to provide that support to everyone.”