In October it was the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In April it was the Chabad of Poway near San Diego.
Think a third attack won’t happen? The threat facing the Jewish community is real, so we must act to protect our families and neighbors. Just as Israel has an Iron Dome missile-defense system to keep its people safe, Louisville’s Jewish community needs a security shield so we can be safe.
As the official security arm of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Secure Community Network (SCN) is working with – and supporting – the Jewish Federation of Louisville to build that shield. That’s why SCN and its experts visited Louisville this month.
We would like to thank our JCL President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner, the Board of Directors and the leadership of the local synagogues and schools for their vision, leadership and efforts to prioritize safety and security for the Louisville Jewish community. SCN is a team of current and former military, law enforcement and homeland security experts. We are not volunteers. We are not private consultants. We are professionals dedicated to serving and protecting the Jewish community.
In Louisville, we will leverage SCN’s expertise and the Federation’s knowledge of our community to assess, improve and deploy a comprehensive security strategy. We call this “AID”:
Assess: The first thing we will do when visiting any community is assess the physical structures. Many locations, especially synagogues, are designed to be welcoming and this provides a challenge: How do we balance being welcoming with being safe and secure? Are there numerous doors that allow guests inside? Is parking right next to the building? Are windows shatterproof? Who oversees security – lay leaders or professionals? Is there a good security plan?
Improve: Where weaknesses exist, improvements must be made. It’s not hard to lock all doors, except for one main entry or to hold active shooter drills that teach leaders and congregants what to do in case of an attack. One common weakness is that leaders think they have a security plan when they really don’t. It may be weak. It may be old. It may never be practiced, or it was practiced so long ago that the people who took part don’t work – or pray – in the synagogue anymore. Security is a nitty, gritty business. It constantly needs to be worked on, updated, drilled and improved.
Deploy: Our team of military, security and law enforcement experts was created to deploy into communities to support the work of federations in the training, planning and thinking necessary to help communities prevent attacks – or to provide those resources where there is no robust security program. We recognize the sensitivities and concerns that all organizations – synagogues, day schools, etc. – have about security issues. Therefore, SCN is a partner, supporting the strong work that the federation has undertaken to implement plans and provide services that work.
As experts, we work closely with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, joint terrorism task forces and state and local law enforcement to coordinate and share information. Our partners in law enforcement and government are keenly aware of the unique threat the Jewish community faces. They want our input and they share information. We also coordinate with government officials closely during threats and incidents, as we did in Pittsburgh and Poway.
Over the last six months, two armed gunmen stormed into two synagogues, killing 12 and injuring many others. This is a call to action. We know threats exist. We also know preparation and prevention are the keys to minimizing or eliminating future attacks.
For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been threatened, but we survive – and thrive. Our mission is to allow parents, children, congregants, seniors, rabbis, ushers and staff to worship, celebrate and be together in peace, knowing those with knowledge and expertise have worked to address security issues, build a plan and implement it – all designed to create the shield our community needs.
Security of our Jewish community is paramount, and we are confident that by working together as a community and coordinating our efforts we will be able to provide the safest environment possible for all of Jewish Louisville.
– Jon Fleischaker, JCL Board Chair
(Michael Masters, a homeland security and law enforcement official and former captain in the Marine Corps, is the national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network. A certified police officer, he is trained in special weapons and tactics and he has served on numerous task forces for the Department of Homeland Security. He previously served on the Executive Board of the FBI’s Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force.)