JEWISHcolorado, supported by Security Community Network (SCN), has launched a regional safety and security initiative. The initiative was presented Jan. 29 to representatives of Jewish community organizations.
The objective of the initiative is “to help raise the baseline level of safety and security throughout our community,” Rabbi Jay Strear, JEWISHcolorado president and CEO, told the Intermountain Jewish News.
“Whichever Jewish organizations our community members visit, they should be secure in the knowledge that best practices are in place for all potentialities: fire, medical emergency, winter storm and worst-case scenarios, such as violent attacks.”
The initiative has its own organizational committee, chaired by Neil Oberfeld, and includes representatives from key partners the ADL and Rose Community Foundation. The initiative also has a six-person critical response team.
The director of the initiative is Tony Losito, a veteran of various law enforcement agencies.
The initiative aims to provide educational and support services, as well as create a network among institutions to ensure best-practices when it comes to security at what SCN calls “Centers of Jewish Life.”
These include houses of worship, but also schools, camps, college organizations, community centers, senior centers and places of work.
To achieve this aim, the initiative is building relationships with law enforcement-related agencies, many of whom were at the Jan. 29 presentation.
These included, but were not limited to, the FBI’s joint terrorism task force; Denver, Glendale and Aurora Police Depts.; the cyber infrastructure (CISA) division of the Dept. of Homeland Security; and Colorado Dept. of Safety’s Colorado information analysis center.
While the Jan. 29 meeting was informational rather than practice-oriented, some of the representatives already shared useful information, such as awareness of a building’s exterior.
The importance of faith-based organizations building relationships with local law enforcement was also emphasized, since an established relationship facilitates a knowledgeable response should the need arise.
The initiative came about as a response to the deadly shooting in 2018 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the number of violent attacks on Jews or Jewish organizations is increasing. According to Strear it has risen from 2 per 1,000 people to 2.8 per 1,000 people. While this rise is “not inconsequential,” says Strear, “neither does it mean that we need to live in fear.”
Awareness and preparedness were the themes of the evening, often not focusing on the worst case scenario, such as an active shooter.
Preparedness also means having a fire escape plan and making sure event organizers are familiar with it, and being ready to deal with a medical emergency, something emphasized by the representative from the American Red Cross. He shared the organizationReadyRating.org website, where businesses can assess how ready they and their staff are for any kind of emergency.
The Jan. 29 presentation ended with a Q&A that revealed some of the issues that Jewish organizations are thinking about, including armed congregants and the cost of increased security.
These and others are issues the initiative’s organizational committee is considering and is addressing through white papers, microgrants and webinars assisting organizations in applying for federal funding.
As concerns about security in the Jewish community have grown, “The leadership of the JEWISHcolorado board understood that our role required addressing such emergent — and urgent — needs,” says Strear.
Information: Regional Security Director Tony Losito, email@example.com.
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