Across the United States, at a time when antisemitic violence is on the rise, Jewish communities are grappling with a difficult question: How can institutions balance being warm, open, and welcoming while being safe and secure?
CJP is addressing this issue by sharing knowledge, proven practices, and expertise with a wide variety of Jewish institutions throughout Greater Boston — including 14 Jewish day schools, 35 preschools, and more than 100 synagogues, as well as Chabads, Hillels, and other Jewish organizations.
When an organization needs to address security issues, CJP’s team assesses its physical security infrastructure (including cameras, locks, doors, and alarms) and reviews emergency operating procedures. Together, we develop solutions to issues related to the unique circumstances facing each organization. Then, through meetings and consultation, our team helps develop a comprehensive, multi-layered approach to improving safety and security.
Thanks to the generous support of our donors, in 2019 alone, the CJP Communal Security Initiative reached more than 2,000 people in the Jewish community through a variety of training opportunities and programs. CJP also offered a total of $150,000 in security infrastructure grants to Boston-area day schools, preschools, and Jewish community centers.
At Temple Beth Shalom (TBS) in Needham, CJP’s Communal Security Initiative team guided TBS’ leadership as it sought to upgrade its security hardware, and provided training for ushers, greeters, lay leaders, and the wider congregation.
“The kind of [security] experience CJP has is an incredible resource in itself. It’s invaluable; I don’t think you can measure it,” said Ellen Dietrick, Director of Early Childhood Learning at TBS. “If people don’t feel safe being a part of our community, they can’t fully participate. Safety is a top priority because it grounds us and sets the stage for everything we do.”
With CJP’s guidance and education, TBS enhanced their security infrastructure and trained staff and volunteers — enabling sometimes difficult-yet-crucial conversations. TBS is now a more secure place of worship where congregants, staff, and preschool parents have greater peace of mind.
CJP’s team knows that discussing security can be difficult and even frightening. No one wants to think about the worst happening to a community they love, especially in a building where they may have grown up.
“There’s a particular way of talking with people and communicating a hard topic. The way that CJP does that is really productive,” Ellen said. “There’s an understanding that we are taking the right steps, that we’re not doing what’s easy, but what’s right. We’re doing it in a rational, thoughtful way grounded in data, as opposed to making decisions based on emotion.”
After conducting an in-depth audit, Safe Havens handed administrators at SSDS an 85-page report that led to significant changes, including a new approach to emergency drills — one that is age appropriate for students as young as three years old.
“This was an invaluable resource that CJP and its donors gave to Solomon Schechter,” said Rebecca Lurie, Head of School. “We’ve relied on the findings they provided to guide our decisions about necessary improvements, and we also took comfort in the things we do well.”
CJP also manages the JEMS (Jewish Emergency Management System) network, which provides alerts as well as information relating to training and grant opportunities. Moreover, the Communal Security Initiative helps to develop relationships between police departments and Jewish institutions, building stronger, more resilient communities.
“Anytime you get law enforcement and congregants in the same room to discuss security, it’s a good thing,” said Kenneth Berkowitz, Canton’s Chief of Police, whose department has worked closely with CJP and local synagogues.
“In this day and age, safety and security are everyone’s responsibility. The days
of doing nothing or taking shelter and waiting for the police response are over. Most incidents last only a couple of minutes. Congregations need to know tactics and strategies that will buy them time until the police arrive.”
Ultimately, CJP’s goal is to foster a culture of communal security — one that is informed, connected, and embraces a concept of security rooted in the idea that we must all recognize a responsibility to care for one another.
“CJP has done a terrific job bringing leaders together, so that we are not replicating efforts and never feel alone as we embark on these important matters,” said Dan Deutsch, Executive Director of Temple Israel in Boston, who has attended several CJP training sessions.
“This is a perfect example of how CJP can combine resources and strengthen many individual organizations. CJP is doing a tremendous job providing support, consultation, and training for dozens of organizations.”