Security training for the Jewish community

March 24, 2022

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The continued threat to Jewish institutions throughout the nation prompted the formation of Secure Community Network in 2004 as the official homeland security and safety initiative of the organized Jewish community in North America. Dedicated to securing synagogues, and all Jewish institutions—JCCs, camps, and especially those who congregate within—the group offers training on a variety of topics.

In fact, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, the victim of January’s terrifying hostage crisis, credited his training with Secure Community Network in his ability to know the correct time and how to facilitate a safe escape for his congregants and himself.

“Not much is more important than the security of our community,” says Betty Ann Levin, UJFT’s executive vice president/CEO.

To better protect the Jewish community who worship and attend area synagogues, day schools, and other Jewish agencies in Tidewater, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater with support from a Tidewater Jewish Foundation community impact grant, joined with the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula to partner with Secure Community Network to enhance local security programs in 2020.

Secure Community Network was established under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America (UJFT’s national umbrella agency) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. SCN strives to enhance the safety and security of those within 147 Federations, the 50 largest Jewish non-profit organizations in North America, and more than 300 independent Jewish communities.

For a couple of days last week, meetings and trainings were offered by UJFT in partnership with SCN and the FBI Norfolk Chapter of InfraGard at the Sandler Family Campus for all members of all faiths of the Jewish and greater Tidewater communities. InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and members of the private sector for the protection of U.S. Critical Infrastructure. More than 500 people attended the various sessions over the course of two days.

“During these two days, to have Representative Elaine Luria, Attorney General Jason Miyares, local FBI and law enforcement representatives at the Sandler Family Campus to collaborate on best practices and lessons learned has been incredibly valuable for both our Jewish and broader community,” says Levin.

The trainings covered a variety of issues and topics including the introduction of FBI Public Outreach programs, an active shooter victim prevention and situational response briefing, a conversation about the intersection of hate crimes and a welcoming community, stop the bleed courses, and more.

The FBI agent leading one session emphasized that “until you’re in a situation, you don’t know how you’ll act.” That’s why it is “so important to have a plan” he said again and again.

“The importance of these trainings cannot be overstated,” says Levin. “We are grateful that we were able to provide them for our community.

“Our partnership with SCN is critical in today’s world. It builds on the relationships that UJFT has established…primarily through our Jewish Community Relations Council,” says Levin. “We hope that all of our constituent agencies benefit from what SCN, as well as our relationships with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, other faith communities and elected officials provide—relationships that we continue to build and enhance.”

To learn more, contact Robin Mancoll, at Rmancoll@ujft.org or go to securecommunitynetworks.org.

-Terri Denison


Letter to the Editor