WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — In the aftermath of the antisemitic attack at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington hosted an important webinar on Friday on the security of the Jewish community in Greater Washington. SCN National Director & CEO Michael Masters, Temple Rodef Shalom Senior Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, and Federation and SCN’s Regional Security Advisor Robert Graves joined Federation CEO Gil Preuss to discuss concrete actions individuals and organizations can take to stay safe.
“Through our close partnerships with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and SCN, Federation remains committed to providing services and helping organizations access funding to strengthen Jewish Greater Washington’s safety, security, and preparedness,” said Federation CEO Gil Preuss. “Security is a priority for us every day, not just in the aftermath of a tragic attack.”
In 2021, SCN, in partnership with Federation, conducted 20 facility security assessments in the greater DC area and led 70 trainings for over 2,000 participants at synagogues, Jewish day schools, community centers, and day and overnight camps. These trainings included countering active threats, situational awareness, and security preparedness. The Jewish Federation also convened the region’s first ever Communal Security Committee to engage all parts of the Greater Washington Jewish community on security concerns, needs, and best practices.
In addition to the webinar, which included a number of recommendations for all community members, SCN has outlined five steps that every Jewish and faith-based facility must take to prevent attacks and save lives:
1. Get an Assessment. Developing a security strategy starts with undergoing an assessment of your facility and its vulnerabilities. SCN and the national network of professional security directors, who oversee Community Security Initiatives at various Jewish Federations and with partners around the country, are available to provide these assessments. SCN has a self-assessment available, as well as forms to request an assessment from local or state law enforcement, if available, or the United States Department of Homeland Security Protective Security Advisor program.
2. Develop a Physical Security Plan. Work with your Community Security Director and SCN to develop a strategic security plan for the physical security of your facility. Common elements of many plans include the following:
a. Panic buttons. They should be placed in key locations around the congregation, including on the bimah (elevated platform from which services are typically conducted) so the clergy can immediately alert authorities if necessary.
b. Automatically locking external doors. Every door to the outside must lock upon closure. Old doors must be replaced.
c. Bullet or impact resistant glass. In a worst-case scenario, this can help save lives.
3. Apply for Federal Grant Funds to Support Physical Security. The federal government, through DHS and FEMA, make $180 million available to the faith-based and non-profit community – up to $150,000 per facility – to improve physical security, and support planning and training. Attend a SCN webinar on Feb. 10, 2022 to learn how to apply for these funds.
4. Provide facility diagrams to local police – now. Hostage rescue teams and SWAT teams must have fast access to study the inside of a facility. No one should wait until a crisis to locate and send them.
5. Train, Train and Train again. Training for leaders and congregants about what to do in case of an attack is essential. It can never be one-and-done and every facility throughout the United States should be trained. The training will provide attendees with an improved ability to recognize suspicious behavior and criminal activity, guidance on how to report it, and strategies to protect themselves and others from violence.
Federation and SCN also encourage individuals to act:
- Those who belong to or regularly frequent a synagogue or other Jewish institutions to inquire about their security strategy and ask about their relationship with local law enforcement.
- Contact their members of Congress to advocate for them to double Federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) funding this year and learn more about the LiveSecure campaign—a national Federation effort to advance the security and safety of Jewish communities.
- Contact your senators and petition them to confirm Professor Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
“The attack and hostage taking at Congregation Beth Israel must be a call to action for Jewish leaders everywhere that things need to change,” said Michael Masters, National Director & CEO of SCN.
Robert Graves, Federation and SCN Regional Security Advisor for the National Capital Area, added, “I urge every synagogue, day school, Hillel, sleep-away camp, and Jewish senior center to learn from what happened at Beth Israel. Now is the time to seek training. We are here to provide it.”
About The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington envisions an open, connected, and vibrant Jewish community that cares for each other, fosters Jewish learning and journeys, embraces Jewish peoplehood and Israel, and acts as a force for good in the world. As a mission-driven non-profit organization, we work to inspire, build, and sustain vibrant Jewish life in a changing world by mobilizing our community in common purpose, intentional innovation, and effective action. Learn more at shalomdc.org.
Adina Pollak, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, 202-839-3527, [email protected]
SOURCE The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington