By Amy Keller, Partner Relations Manager, Staff Liaison to the Federation Security Task Force, at the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey
Security is everyone’s responsibility.
That’s our belief at the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey. We think it should be yours, too.
In March, Richard Sandler, chair of the Board of Trustees and Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, issued a joint message in the Jewish Journal, titled, Standing Together as One. In their opinion piece, both leaders chronicled the current, rising tide of anti-Semitic acts of violence and the measures being taken by the Federation and partners to help safeguard individuals and communities from the result of hatred and prejudice.
We read about the desecration of our cemeteries, bomb threats to our schools and hateful slurs spray painted on people’s homes and businesses. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there was a more than 50 percent rise in physical assaults between 2014 and 2015 (56 in 2015 vs 36 in 2014), and a total of 90 incidents reported on 60 college campuses in 2015, nearly double the 2014 reported statistics.
Religious and cultural bias is an increasingly pervasive problem, targeting not only Jews, but also individuals and organizations in the Muslim and Christian communities as well as those who are traditionally perceived as “other”. Add this to the fact that the world we live in today is increasingly connected. We live “close” – and many people share services and infrastructure with neighbors who may have unfamiliar traditions and cultural perspectives.
Yet, it’s our responsibility – everyone’s responsibility – to care about each other’s safety and to act responsibly to promote vigilance and preparedness.
So, should we live in fear? Of course not. There are practical things we can do to increase our safety and security, and there are resources to help us do these things.
The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey has a close working relationship with several key partners, including the Secure Community Network (SCN), the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, local law enforcement, and first responder agencies. Thanks to these partnerships, our Federation is able to offer programs and services that help organizations assess security risks and identify and implement solutions.
HOW THE FEDERATION IS COLLABORATING WITH PARTNERS
Here’s a snapshot of how the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is working with partners to help create a safer, more aware community:
- The Federation provides community organizations with access to a volunteer security task force of security professionals and community leaders. The Security Task Force meets regularly to discuss the ever-changing security needs of the community. This team will work with an organization to conduct a risk analysis and security audit, and to implement the recommendations of that audit.
The Task Force identifies areas of improvement and potential vulnerabilities in addition to making recommendations to establish or adjust internal partner policies and procedures.
- The Federation facilitates open, frequent communication with local and state law enforcement, informing them about major events and other instances where a large group of Jewish residents are expected to gather. This helps law enforcement and first responders maintain heightened vigilance to protect everyone at the event and in the surrounding community.
- The Federation has built a communications network between you, community partners, and law enforcement agencies. We supply our partner security contacts with safety and security notifications, alerts, bulletins, and reports as warranted. Communication goes both ways. Information and reports we receive are shared through law enforcement channels enabling them to better serve the community.
- The Federation supplies key resources to strengthen applications by Jewish organizations in Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties who are applying for Homeland Security Grant funding to make security improvements. In addition to notifying organizations when grant funding opportunities are announced, the Federation also helps make sure applicants have all the information they need to successfully complete and submit their requests including grant application deadlines.
More than $1,400,000 of federal money and matching grants from the Federation went into Monmouth/Middlesex counties last year to bolster security at synagogues, schools and other community organizations that serve the Jewish community.
HOW THE FEDERATION IS HELPING EMPOWER OUR JEWISH COMMUNITY
I opened with the statement, “Security is everyone’s responsibility,” and that’s because it’s true. Crises happen, and when they do, we are either aware, educated and trained to respond or we are not. Security is a long-term process that cannot be efficiently or effectively enacted overnight, however we do have a choice about becoming better prepared and there are resources that can help us.
At the Federation, we encourage individuals to educate themselves on security issues and take personal responsibility for community safety. Besides taking steps to safeguard the people who live in your own home, there are ways you can provide leadership in your schools, synagogues, community centers and groups – ways that will make a difference in the ultimate outcome of a crisis or disaster:
- Create an Emergency Action Plan, including a checklist to respond to a threat or crisis.
- Develop your organization’s own relationship with local law enforcement departments and first responders.
Education and preparation before the crisis is essential.
- Identify the security contacts within your organization. Invest them with the responsibility to train organization members in safety and emergency response procedures and to practice these procedures with members. Practice and drill until the knowledge and confidence to respond effectively in a crisis is easy to access under any circumstance.
- Connect with the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey to stay informed about upcoming security related news and events: firstname.lastname@example.org
Soon, Jews around the world will sit together and observe Passover. We will invite Elijah into our homes and set a place for the stranger at our tables.
When you gather with your family and celebrate the Passover traditions, please remember that as we remain open and welcoming to the friends, neighbors and yes, strangers we are responsible for, we are also responsible for being vigilant. Today, tomorrow and every day, we practice preparedness so we may all feel safer and take better care of ourselves and each other.
For more information about security initiatives sponsored through the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, send a request to Amy Keller at: email@example.com.