Weekly Reflection – October 9, 2020: A Message from Gil Preuss

Weekly Reflection – October 9, 2020: A Message from Gil Preuss

The pandemic may have put some security issues on hold but, unfortunately, it has not decreased the need to remain proactive and vigilant against those who would do us harm. As we close out the High Holiday season this weekend with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, we are looking ahead to how Federation can continue helping keep our community safe.

In February, Federation’s Security Task Force set out to present recommendations for ways we could support a more secure community. Their work was undertaken in response to a historic uptick in violence and intimidation perpetrated against Jewish individuals and entities in America and around the world. Now, as Jewish organizations are preparing to return to their buildings or laying the groundwork for more permanent remote work, we are focused on finding ways to move the recommendations of the Security Task Force forward.

The Task Force was chaired by Matthew Weinberg, and included lay and professional representatives from across DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia, as well as Regional Security Advisor, Robert Graves, of the Secure Community Network (SCN)—Federation’s partner in keeping our community secure.

Together, this thoughtful group identified several immediate and straightforward steps that Jewish organizations can take to shore up their security, as well as more advanced efforts that require additional resources and communal coordination. This work and many essential efforts over the last two years would not have been possible without the partnership of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. The JCRC has been integral in raising critical resources for our community and we look forward to working closely together on next steps.

To start, the Task Force recommends ensuring basic security tools are in place, from door locks to video cameras and so on. They also highly recommend that every single organization complete a security assessment that helps identify potential risks or vulnerabilities. With variables like physical location, public accessibility, and more, no two organizations and no two security plans are alike. Federation will be making funds and consultants, including our SCN partners, available to organizations who may need assistance in this work.

Beyond physical mechanisms, the Task Force points to enhancing coordination and communication as essential to strengthening security in our region. Not only do they recommend that each organization appoint their own security committee, they also emphasize the need to create a standing safety committee that works across major Jewish organizations in Greater Washington. At the moment, security efforts in our community are mostly ad hoc. A joint committee would help create consistency and account for regional risks that may fall beyond the purview of any one organization.

Last but certainly not least, Federation and SCN look forward to acting on the recommendation to help create a communal communications system that could include an inter-organizational alert system, effective procedures for communicating with local police departments, and standard protocols for disseminating alerts and information to community members.

The effects of the pandemic will also likely shape security concerns moving forward. As Jewish organizations bring more and more of their work online, we will need to ensure cyber space becomes a permanent fixture in our comprehensive threat assessments.

I hope, one day, that I won’t have to write about security with any kind of urgency. Until then, rest assured that Federation is committed to working alongside local leaders and partners across Greater Washington to enact smart, integrated plans for keeping our community safe.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,