January 31, 2023

A few weeks ago, the Jewish community marked the first anniversary of the hostage situation that occurred at the synagogue in Colleyville, TX. This occasion was marked with articles and talks about what faith-based organizations learned from this and how they have applied these lessons to their safety protocols. In addition, Secure Community Network (SCN) held a training entitled Surviving Hostage Situations to help educate people on practical steps to take at the onset, duration, and resolution of a hostage situation.

In August 2022, you may remember our Jewish Federation launched our Comprehensive Community-wide Security Plan, developed in partnership with SCN. The purpose of this plan had three main goals: to help establish continuity around security throughout the local Jewish community, to make sure the Jewish Federation and its community partners are doing everything they can to help keep the community safe and to keep the community informed and encourage community members to participate in ongoing security trainings.

As we have hit the five-month mark on this plan, I have been impressed with how our local synagogues have engaged their members in an abundance of security trainings and opportunities to increase their knowledge and understanding of what they can do to stay safe. 

Take, for instance, Temple Beth Israel of Pomona’s significant commitment to security. Not only does the congregation hold monthly trainings (and promotes them monthly in their synagogue bulletin), but they are constantly looking at ways to increase their security efforts. In addition to these trainings, they remind everyone of the safety protocols before every service and event, similar to flight attendants going through their passenger instructions before take-off. The congregation has even printed out evacuation measures, complete with a map and a 1-pager of essential information for people to review. Through these efforts, the security culture around the synagogue has shifted from a place of fear to a place of obligation.

And thankfully, they are not alone. Many congregations in our community have developed robust security plans and efforts, including working closely with their respective local law enforcement to conduct site visits or hold in-person trainings. I look forward to watching and seeing this dedication continue for a long time. 

As we continue to witness, violent events are not subsiding; they are only becoming more frequent. Don’t believe me… here is a laundry list of only a handful of incidents that occurred in the last two weeks – the shooting in Monterey Park, the shooting in Half Moon Bay., the shooting outside the synagogue in Jerusalem, another round of antisemitic flyers thrown on Pasadena driveways and a Molotov cocktail thrown at the front door of a New Jersey synagogue. 

These incidents remind us that we must continue to keep our guard and remain vigilant, even online. It is why the Jewish Federation is conducting its next security training next Tuesday, February 7, at 7:00 pm, this time in partnership with the FBI. The training will focus on financial scams that target older adults, money mules, online scams, and elder fraud. An FBI Supervisory Special Agent with extensive knowledge and experience in this area will conduct the training. His talk will illustrate current trends and ways that all of us can stay safe and avoid online financial scams.

Registration is open and available at www.jewishsgpv.org. And unfortunately, the FBI does not allow its trainings to be recorded. So if you miss it, you miss it. I urge everyone to sign up and attend this virtual training and share the information with those you know to help us continue to make people feel more secure.


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