By Jeff Finkelstein |
I have taken some time over the last few weeks to reflect back on how much has happened in the last two years since the attack at the Tree of Life Building but especially on the leadership and investment made by our Federation in the area of security. You will recall that our Federation Board took the step of hiring our first ever Jewish Community Security Director in January 2017 and we know that his work had been so important in not only saving lives on October 27, 2018 but in protecting all of us from the inception of our security program. Since October 2018, we have continued to build upon the foundation we set.
Recently, our Security Director, Shawn Brokos, with our Security Committee chaired by David Ainsman, took the lead in procuring and providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to any Jewish organization requiring it at no cost to any Jewish institution. To us, safety includes keeping people healthy.
Due to the incredible generosity of a private foundation, we are close to completing installation and activation of a system called BluePoint in 15 of our Jewish institutions. Bluepoint is a state of the art alert system that not only connects to our local law enforcement, it also connects all the Jewish institutions with each other. If something might happen at one organization, all will know about it. This investment of nearly $750,000 comes at no initial cost to any local synagogue or agency and Federation security will manage the platform going forward. We have installed it in our Jewish Day Schools and Early Childhood Centers.
We assembled and distributed 500 “Go Bags” for every classroom in the Jewish community within synagogues and agencies. These bags contain nearly everything one would need in case of any kind of emergency whether it be medical or security related. This came at no cost to any local organization.
We are trying not only to keep our community safe, but also trying to help everyone to feel safe. Feeling safe is just as important so that all will continue to engage in Jewish life. We have been saying since the start of our security initiative that our goal is to make the community both safe and open. None of this would happen without the convening power of our Federation. These and other capital investments, government dollars we successfully lobbied for, and security personnel hired by Federation on behalf of the Jewish community has resulted in approximately $2 million in investments since October 27, 2018.
We wish we didn’t need to spend a penny on security. We would much prefer putting those dollars into programming, education or support for those in need, but unfortunately this is our reality and we will always take the safety of our community members as a high priority.
Thank you for helping us keep our community safe. Shabbat Shalom. Go Steelers. Wear that mask!
P.S. If you are interested, the Secure Community Network conducted a webinar entitled “Two Years After the Pittsburgh Attack: The Evolution and Future of Securing the Jewish Community” that includes our former Security Director Brad Orsini, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and me.
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The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s security fund will pay for armed security at area synagogues and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 30–Oct.1) and Yom Kippur (Oct. 8¬–9).
“Our community is very safe, but we understand that people going to Jewish worship services need to feel secure after the attack on three of our congregations last year and that many of our synagogues have taken on added security expenses. We want to be helpful to them.”Jeffrey Finkelstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
A volunteer committee that allocates Jewish Federation’s security fund wanted to make sure that synagogues have security given that many people will be returning to Jewish religious services for the first time since the attack.
“We are working closely with police from municipalities across the greater Pittsburgh area to coordinate efforts,” said Brad Orsini, Director of Community Security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
The Jewish Federation does not currently plan to pay for synagogue security personnel for future holidays or events. However, the Jewish Federation’s Security Committee is working on several new community-wide initiatives to continue to increase the level of security coordination among Jewish organizations and synagogues.