Like everyone, we are deeply relieved by the outcome of the hostage taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, near Dallas. We thank all the law enforcement officials who saved the lives of our brethren, and we express to Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the other hostages, and all of his congregants, our love and support as they deal with this trauma.
Of course, we wish incidents like this could be prevented completely, but we know that the presence of our Dallas Federation’s Community Security Initiative and the Secure Community Network (SCN), both before the incident and during, made a real and important difference. We appreciate that the FBI thanked and acknowledged the Jewish Federation and SCN at their press briefing immediately after the successful conclusion of the incident, and pledged to work with us throughout the country on the safety of Jewish communities. Rabbi Cytron-Walker also expressed his support of the security training he received in his touching thank you message.
As you know, Jewish Federations across North America have taken responsibility for developing and implementing comprehensive security plans for their communities. Today, approximately fifty of the 146 Federations have such programs. The Jewish Federations also created SCN to provide expertise and support to these efforts, and to work directly with law enforcement agencies, especially the United States Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
To further support these efforts, Federations worked with the United States Congress to develop and grow the Non-Profit Security Grant program, which provides financial support for the physical security costs incurred by faith-based institutions, including cameras, reinforced doors, and the like. Finally, Federations and SCN work with ADL to share threat information and the Community Security Service (CSS) to provide expertise on volunteer security training.
These efforts all form a single, integrated strategy with local Federations as the front line supported by expert assistance, communications, information, training and financial resources provided by our Federation system as a whole. It is critical that we build out this strategy to cover every community, and strengthen and enhance the programs that already exist. We are in the midst of a campaign – called LiveSecure – to do just that. Through LiveSecure, the Jewish Federations of North America are in the final stages of raising a $54M fund to provide matching and incentive dollars to local Federations’ security initiatives, and to support SCN’s important work on behalf of local Federations.
Our next steps are:
- Accelerate the launch of our LiveSecure initiative to early February, at which point we will establish and begin implementing a plan for every community to build or enhance their Community Security Initiative so that the national security umbrella is complete within three years;
- Mobilize the Jewish Federations’ Advocacy Corps and all our leadership groups to secure a doubling of Congress’ Non-Profit Security Grant funding from $180M per year to $360M; and
- Ensure that the Jewish community at large knows that this work is underway so that everyone
can feel safe participating in every aspect of Jewish life safely and securely.
To learn more about LiveSecure, including how you help your local security efforts or the systemwide LiveSecure campaign, please feel free to contact either of us at email@example.com. Please note that Federation executives and other key personnel will also be receiving information in the coming week regarding how each Federation can use LiveSecure to support their security efforts.
Our Jewish Federation system was built to provide leadership on challenges for which the only path forward is coordinated, collective action. Security is certainly one such challenge. We will not hesitate and we will not fail.
Thank you for your support.
Mark Wilf is Chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees.
Julie Platt is the National Campaign Chair and Chair of LiveSecure.