In the world in which we live, Jewish institutions such as synagogues and schools, which are on alert every day of the year, increase their security arrangements at the High Holiday season. Tragedies this past year such as the killing of Jews in Toulouse, France and more recently in Bulgaria are on the minds of every shul and school as they prepare for the New Year 5773.
The Orthodox Union, through its Karasick Department of Synagogue Services | Congregation Support Network and its Washington-based Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) | Jewish Political Affairs, continues to provide expertise to Jewish institutions on how to take proactive steps to make themselves safer, and has worked with the Department of Homeland Security to secure grants to turn awareness into action.
In July, the OU, in partnership with the Security Community Network, the national non-profit homeland security initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, presented its first annual “Security Awareness Week” for synagogues and schools. Consisting of conference calls, online training events and webinars, the program covered a variety of topics dealing with “best practices” and featured an “Ask the Expert” forum with leading security professionals.
According to Yehuda Friedman, Associate Director of Synagogue Services, steps taken by synagogues include hiring professional security services, using undercover officers, and establishing security committees within their congregations to work with local experts and the police.
“When it comes to preparing the institution for holiday security or throughout the year, it is important to have a direct line of communication with local law enforcement – to have them provide a security assessment of the building and to meet with key personnel, including the security committee,” Mr. Friedman said. “If the police do not provide extra patrols of synagogues and schools, the leadership should request it.”
“We are grateful to law enforcement agencies across North America for their concern for and cooperation with their local Jewish communities on issues of security, particularly at holiday times,” the OU official said.
“On matters of security, the Orthodox Union has taken a leading role among Jewish umbrella organizations in providing opportunities to synagogues like Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (in New York) to learn and grow and face the challenges of our uncertain world,” said Leonard Silverman, Executive Director of the synagogue.
The Orthodox Union, through its Institute for Public Affairs, in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America, has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security to secure more than $100 million in grants for increased security measures over the past five years, the majority going to Jewish institutions.
“Nonprofit organizations, including synagogues and schools, often don’t have the funds needed for security improvements,” said IPA Director Nathan Diament. “Thus, we are deeply appreciative that the Department of Homeland Security – led by Secretary Napolitano, with whom we met earlier this week – and our allies in Congress, have consistently and strongly supported the Nonprofit Security Grants Program and provided vital aid to our community.”
Yehuda Friedman said, “Applying for these grants is an arduous process and through our own expert grant writers, we review the synagogues’ proposals before they are submitted.” The maximum grant per institution is $75,000. The grants have been used to install cameras, upgraded doors, concrete barriers, bomb proof windows, alarm systems and exterior lighting, he explained.
“We can’t tell synagogues what to do; we can only empower them by providing the information and resources for them to make informed decisions,” Mr. Friedman emphasized. “We are here to heighten awareness, to be a resource and to share best practices.”
For further information, consult ou.org/security.
OU | Enhancing Jewish Life