By Jenn Ross
January was a very troubling month for the Jewish community.
From the horrifying hostage situation during a Bar Mitzvah/Shabbat service in Colleyville, Texas, to the atrocious speech on MLK Day (and follow-up statement) by Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, a leader in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to a second act of antisemitism and racism on Dickinson College’s campus in just over a month, it is clear that anti-Semitism is on the dramatic rise.
But, I recognize there is more love than hate in our communities.
I am grateful that Dickinson College’s Administration has acted swiftly and strongly in response to these two incidents and when other troubling matters have arisen.
I appreciate national partners, such as Presbyterians for Middle East Peace for condemning Rev. Nelson’s remarks, and local friends such as Market Square Presbyterian who reached out with words of comfort after the attack in Colleyville and posted a thoughtful statement, in which they said that “acts of anti-Semitism and violence are always to be deplored and condemned even as we continue to pray toward the day when all people everywhere will live together in mutual respect and dignity within our one human family.”
While everyone involved will need to heal from the emotional trauma, thankfully, none of the congregants in Colleyville were physically harmed, thanks to security trainings and situational awareness that the synagogue’s members and staff had undertaken.
Our organizations and community members are always on alert, because we have to be.
Here in Pennsylvania, the Greater Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh Federations in partnership with ADL Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, are convening a virtual forum on Hate and extremism on Tuesday, February 22. Watch for details and please register for helpful guidance. On the national level, numerous additional security trainings are being offered to help our communities protect themselves.
Our partner, Secure Community Network, provided a briefing the day following Colleyville’s attack. Brad Orsini provided a lot of guidance on what institutions should be doing now. I share this summary with the regional Jewish institution distribution list directly afterwards. I encourage all of our community members to familiarize themselves with these key steps, and to continue to look for further security education opportunities.
If you need any guidance or have feedback, I can be reached at email@example.com or 717-236-9555 x3104.
Security Steps For All Institutions
From Brad Orsini, Secure Community Network
1. Convene your emergency teams to review your emergency plans and test your emergency systems.
2. Ensure that your floor plans can be accessed remotely so they can be provided to law enforcement. The Federation has provided ours to the Dauphin County Emergency Management Agency so they have them on file. It would be a good idea to do that and also provide it to your local law enforcement agency.
3. Hold table top exercises- facilitated conversations about how you would handle different instances (i.e. an active shooter).
4. Review and implement ideas from SCN's no cost/low cost security measures documents: https://cdn.fedweb.org/fed-34/2/SCN_Low_Cost_No_Cost_Guide_May_2020.pdf
5. Shore up your security cameras-- ensure they provide the insights law enforcement need and that they can access them even if key contacts are involved in the incident or unavailable.
6. Do a cybersecurity assessment of your website, social media, etc. and make sure that sensitive content isn't available to the general public. Brad even discouraged having the Zoom links and service times posted publicly. Also, be cognizant of personal identifying information that is posted online.
7. Have a strong relationship with law enforcement and make sure they are familiar with your building. Encourage regular walk-throughs.
8. Train and drill with your constituents.
9. Report suspicious behavior to law enforcement. If you are in the Greater Harrisburg area, please also keep me (Jenn Ross) in the loop, particularly if you suspect someone is casing your institution. It helps us identify potential patterns.