Striking a balance
On the afternoon of Dec 21, 2006, Doron Horowitz was busy plotting security strategy for a rally to be held in Toronto’s Jewish community. The rally was to oppose Holocaust deniers that had grabbed international headlines the week before, when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a keynote speech at a conference in Tehran.
One would think it would be the police who would provide logistics and
support for such events, but as the director of community security for
the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of Greater Toronto,
Horowitz’s job is to coordinate with police for such events and
ultimately manage risk for the Jewish community.
It is a security position unlike any you will see posted elsewhere in
Canada. Ultimately, his mandate is to create a security plan for a
community within a community, in a country not used to taking threats
too seriously. But, in a time when hate crimes and anti-Semitic threats
seem to be on the rise, Horowitz says it’s time Canadians wake up and
become more aware of their surroundings and learn to better anticipate
and prepare for incidents.
The UJA is a large organization that works to raise funds and provide
education and other services to the Jewish community. Ontario, and in
particular the Greater Toronto Area, is home to about 200,000 Jewish
people, one of the largest populations of Jewish people in North
Horowitz was hired 18 months ago to develop a template and security
standards for Jewish schools, synagogues, community centres and the
Following the events of 9/11, this community felt the threat level had
increased and needed to be addressed.
Horowitz has witnessed the extreme side of hate and terror. The
42-year-old former Israeli soldier served in combat in the Middle East
and was decorated for his efforts.
“The Jewish community, from its inception, has always been under threat
and it will continue to be so. Therefore, security is a necessity and,
to have a safe and civilized life, it is a requirement,” says Horowitz.
“In Canada, we face a great threat because of the high quality of life
we have here, and because of our proximity to the United States.”
Canadian born to an Israeli mother and Canadian father, Horowitz grew
up in Jerusalem from the age of seven. After serving in the Israeli
Defence Force (IDF) he travelled to New York City, Miami, Europe and in
1999 returned to Toronto. He also co-founded a crisis management firm
called Global Impact.
He was also part of an Israeli team hired to provide personal
protection to the captain of the infamous Achille Lauro cruise ship,
which had been attacked by Palestinian Liberation Organization
terrorists who murdered wheelchair-bound American tourist Leon
Klinghoffer in 1985.
In reality, Horowitz has never completely left the military, having
returned to service 17 years after leaving the IDF to fight as a
reservist in 2002 and 2004 as part of paramilitary group. He was
decorated for his efforts during a 2002 tour of duty for successfully
taking down an Arab Israeli known to police for involvement in drugs
and weapons smuggling. A picture of Horowitz standing with his armoured
Humvee during that operation hangs on the wall in his office.
“I like to go back now and then and get my hands dirty,” he says.
Here in Toronto, the “battle” is entirely different, but serious nonetheless.
Horowitz came to the job with a deep concern that Canadians are largely complacent about their personal security.
“Canadians live with their eyes closed. They need to at least be
conscious of their surroundings and have increased awareness. In real
life situations, the true hero is going to be human beings,” he says.
That certainly was true when in March, a man wearing a swastika on his
clothing was arrested after vandalizing a Toronto synagogue. A TTC bus
driver called police after seeing a man throw something through three
main front windows of the Chabad of Midtown Jewish Centre on Bathurst
St., south of St. Clair Ave. At the time, community leaders said, by
calling police, the TTC driver may have prevented similar hate crimes
After such an incident, Horowitz works closely with the Canadian Jewish
Congress and its director of community relations, Len Rudner. They meet
with police and look into whether it was a hate crime, as opposed to
mischievous activity or vandalism. From there, Horowitz works with
police to assess the reasons that might be behind the attack. He then
provides direction to various Jewish institutions on what they should
do to increase security, such as checking alarm systems and lighting,
fencing and other security-related components.
One area Horowitz
focuses on is schools and all institutions involving children. He
regularly gives talks to school administrators and teachers about risk
“I talk about how recess is not a break for them — they could be
looking out for sexual predators or other threats. They could mitigate
the harm of a child if they know what to look for. If a system is in
place in each school to provide a safe and secure environment, everyone
can feel more safe,” he says.
And while he is increasing security systems at schools in the GTA, he
says they will not become fortresses. In fact, without proper education
of the staff and children, he says all the security cameras and access
systems in the world won’t adequately prepare them for an incident.
Each school has received an emergency handbook containing fire and
safety plans and Horowitz conducts regular table top exercises
reviewing various scenarios such as if a sexual predator were to enter
a campus, or if a bomb threat was called in.
“I don’t want to turn the schools into Fort Knox. You have to find a
balance between accessibility and providing a secure environment. At a
school, any good security plan has to be flexible — you can’t sustain a
high-level of readiness for too long,” he says.”¢