As you might imagine, security has been at the forefront of my mind as of late, and for good reason. Actually, it has never really left my mind. You might say it comes with the territory as a leader within the Jewish community. However, let me ask you a question, and be honest… how often have you thought about it? I mean really thought about what it means to feel safe. “But Jason, we haven’t had to think about it because COVID has prevented many of us from attending Shabbat services or going to our synagogue for a program.” That’s true. And yet, just because you aren’t physically there does not mean you shouldn’t think about security.
Look… I get it. Thinking, planning, and talking about security can be a little bit scary because it forces us to think about some of the worst situations we could possibly imagine. Plus, the whole notion of keeping people out goes against the open and welcoming nature we want, enjoy, and value from our Jewish community.
If the events of last month, let alone the numerous other incidents that have occurred at synagogues and other houses of worship, has not woken us up, what will? Security has become a necessity for all of us to take seriously and I am sad to say, it is here to stay.
A few days after the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel, I shared that this “new” emphasis on security was our new reality and we need to accept it. We don’t have to like it, but it is and will remain, an integral part of organizational life. If you need to take some more time to grieve the feeling of loss… the sense of comfort and safety that once existed for all of us…. that’s fine. However, the sooner we can move to the next phase of the process, the closer we can get to have that feeling back.
And if you stop to think about it, making security a priority is a good thing. It means that people are becoming more focused on helping to keep all of us as safe as possible.
Organizations are also developing strong relationships with local law enforcement to help create and improve plans to protect and safeguard our institutions. Even the government has recognized the need to help pay for these increased security measures through their Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Many of our community institutions have received these essential funds in the recent past and a few are applying for additional money that is allowing them to harden their buildings and properties. They are taking these critical steps to protect each other. Notice that I did not use the word defend. What we are doing is protecting ourselves from those that hate us and want to do us harm.
It is not just purchasing equipment or building fences that will help keep us safe. As Rabbi Cytron-Walker and the other hostages shared during numerous interviews, the multiple security trainings they went through over the last several years helped them escape from this horrible incident.
Please understand that I am not okay with any of this. I did not become a Jewish professional to think about security. I am sad, upset, frustrated, and so many other emotions that I am feeling right now. But think about the alternative. What would the Jewish community feel like if we did not take these necessary steps, especially as we are seeing a significant rise of antisemitism and hatred over these last few years?
I care too much for our Jewish community to let anything happen to it. And it is for this reason that I, and the Jewish Federation, will continue to take security seriously and I encourage all of us to do the same.