Keeping Our Community Safe and Open

Blue Point Security

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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Fifteen Pittsburgh-Area Jewish Organizations Receive $722,000 in Security Funds from State

security cameras

Fifteen Jewish organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania received approximately $722,000 in grant funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency on March 11. The funding came from the first-ever cycle of the Pennsylvania Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which was signed into law by Gov. Wolf in November 2019 to fund security upgrades for communal facilities used by nonprofit entities deemed at risk for hate crimes. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, led lobbying efforts to pass the legislation.

“We are so grateful that the legislature recognized the need in the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community,” said Bob Silverman, chair of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

“The fact that our community received nearly 15 percent of all available funds demonstrates that our elected officials have recognized and acted upon the threat to our community after the horrific violent attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building a year and a half ago.”

Bob Silverman, chair of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

The four-week application process yielded 807 applications, with requests totaling approximately $27 million. The entirety of the funds available, $5 million, was disbursed to 113 applicants representing diverse communities throughout the state.

“The $22 million in unfunded requests show that there is a greater need for security infrastructure than anticipated,” said Silverman. “We are working with our elected officials and community partners to ensure that the Pennsylvania Nonprofit Security Grant Program is funded above and beyond $5 million next fiscal year.”

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Israel Trauma Coalition Publishes Advice for Parents and Caregivers Dealing with Coronavirus

Israel Trauma Coalition
Israel Trauma Coalition

Advise for parents/caregivers in light of concerns raised by the Corona epidemic:

Dear Parents/Caregivers,

We are witnessing the spread of the Corona epidemic around the world and at this stage; it is unclear what effect this will have on all of us. At present, routine in most places in the country continues, but we must prepare for a change in the situation. The virus is a new kind of concern, not something we are used to dealing with and therefore can cause stress and affect our emotional state and that of our children.

We want to increase the ability to cope with this stress and strengthen our resilience. The two main causes of stress are uncertainty and feelings of helplessness.

To reduce uncertainty, relevant information should be provided and tailored to each child’s developmental stage.

To cope with feeling helpless, one must improve one’s sense of self-reliance. This can be achieved in two ways:

1. Maintaining your routine
2. Encouraging activity

As parents/caregivers, you are the most important source of support for your child during times of crisis. Because of this, it is important that you are attentive to signs of distress, provide support and convey confidence.

First, the Ministry of Health’s updated guidelines must be followed. You can find them on line.

Here are some practical tips to help you and the children in your care cope with the situation:

Adopt two requisite rules that are suitable for children of all ages:

1) Don’t withhold: You have to create an atmosphere of sharing, no secrets, and talk about everything and allow them to ask any questions. Conversely, if parents/caregivers stay huddled together children realize that something dangerous is happening and that the adults are hiding something from them.

2) Don’t inundate: If a parent/caregiver feels overwhelmed with worry or stress, they must first take care of themselves. It is permissible to talk about things that concern us but only if we are able to speak about how we are coping with the concern.

Try to maintain routine – routine gives children confidence. Be sure to maintain regular habits, meal times and sleep time. Create opportunities for children to share their thoughts and questions with you. Play, find things that you will enjoy doing together.

Limit children’s exposure to news – avoid over-exposing your child to television news broadcasts and discussions. This is especially important for preschool and elementary school age.

Provide age-appropriate information – just tell them the truth, in a simple and reassuring way, without elaborating on the details. Provide the child with information and explain that there is a virus called Corona and that the government is taking measures to keep us all safe. Excess information can confuse children and cause fear and insecurity. Be attentive to the questions and content that engage the children and mediate the reality according to their questions. It is advisable to help the child distinguish between facts and rumors, which will help to control the situation. Teach them that not everything you hear on the street or write on social media is accurate and that the best thing is always ask your parents.

Increase your child’s sense of control and ability – teach them how to take care of themselves and their environment by taking care of their hygiene, covering their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing using a disposable handkerchief or elbow, washing hands with soap before eating and after using the toilet.

Here are some examples of activities that can be initiated: Ask the child to teach their younger sibling the rules of hygiene make a video or write a story that teaches children the rules of hygiene, prepare an ad with the rules for family members. That way the child will feel significant and a full partner in the prevention efforts.

Be aware of your reactions to the event – children learn how to respond to the situation by watching adults in their environment. The children will identify your stress level and respond accordingly.

If your family is required to stay in isolation:

We recommend listening to music and engaging in physical activity. There are many things you can do indoors such as dancing, jumping rope, playing catch and more.

Find fun activities for the kids: board games, drawing, reading books, etc.

You can practice breathing exercises and guided imagery with the children, which you can find on the Internet.

Distance Learning – you can connect to various teaching websites suitable to your community.

It is important to create a structured, consistent and activity-packed agenda for the children.

When should you seek professional help?

Powerful emotional reactions are normal in response to a crisis or significant stressful situation. In general, they tend to fade after a few weeks. At this stage, children and adults return to normal and normal activities. If emotional reactions persist beyond two weeks or worsen, significantly impairing the child’s ability to function in school / work / home, consider seeking professional help.

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Jewish Community Resources on Coronavirus Safety & Health

all of us globe

As of March 6, 2020 at 11:00 a.m., there are no reported cases of coronavirus in Allegheny County or in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. Please check the Allegheny County Health Department for the most up-to-date information. The Jewish Federation has an initial statement that includes information about Federation-funded travel and missions.

Resources for the Jewish Community on Coronavirus Safety and Health

Jewish Federations of North America

Psychological Counseling Resources and Referrals
Jewish Family and Community Services

Oct. 27 Attack-Related Counseling: 10.27 Healing Partnership

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh continues to monitor the spread of the coronavirus closely with support from our national organizations and from local government. In making decisions about travel, our topmost concern is the safety and health of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, in our Partnership2Gether community in Poland and throughout Israel. Although we cannot know for sure what will transpire in the next couple of months, we want to proceed with caution and to plan ahead as much as possible.

As the central organizing body for the Jewish community, we have been in touch with our eight main beneficiary agencies to ensure that everyone shares contingency plans and best practices. Our Jewish Community Security team continues to coordinate with first responders and has been in close touch with the Allegheny County Department of Health. The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Life and Learning team has reached out to area synagogues. We are also reaching out to support other faith communities and diverse communities, building on our relationships through the Federation’s Community Relations Council (CRC).

Our eight beneficiary agencies—the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh (JCC), Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS), the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA), Jewish Residential Services (JRS), the Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center (Hillel JUC), Community Day School (CDS), Hillel Academy and Yeshiva Schools—are working together to ensure you remain safe and healthy with as minimal service interruptions as possible. Each of our agencies receives expert advice from one or more national organizations, and we also have guidance from Jewish Federations of North America. For overseas Jewish communities, we are in contact with our partners the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

The Jewish Federation typically funds or runs many travel opportunities to Israel and to other Jewish communities around this time of year. We have already postponed the CRC’s Alternative Spring Break college trip to Israel. We have not made a final decision as to whether other trips will continue as planned, but we will be back in touch as soon as we feel we can make an informed decision. Please see the landing pages for each trip for the latest updates.

Jewish Federation is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh. We are here to help in any way we can, and you can rest assured that Jewish organizations here are doing everything possible to keep you safe, healthy and informed.

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Jewish Federation Announces Record Allocations and Grants in Year 2019-20

Stronger Together

Donors to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will enable a record $36.8 million in allocations and grants to human services and community-building programs in 2019–20. The amount includes funds donated in response to the anti-Semitic attack of Oct. 27, 2018. The allocations, announced by the Federation’s Board of Directors, will support recovery efforts from the attack as well as human services and programs connecting people to Jewish life in Pittsburgh and in Jewish communities around the world.

Funds included in this year’s Jewish Federation distributions include the Fund for Victims of Terror (already fully distributed); funds for community resiliency and security; and funds that donors designated for mental health, memorialization and education. The distributions also derive from sources typical to past years: the Federation’s Community Campaign and Jewish Community Foundation, supplemental donor gifts, government funds secured with Jewish Federation assistance and a $900,000 human services block grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

“The outpouring of support from people from around the world helped the Jewish community to begin the healing process after last year’s attack. If not for the Jewish Federation, however, we would not have been able to organize so quickly to respond. The Community Campaign plays a critical role in leading this kind of community response year after year.”

Linda Joshowitz, Chair of the Jewish Federation’s Community Campaign

Allocation decisions are the result of a year-long planning process that engages volunteers and professionals with diverse expertise, backgrounds and affiliations. This year, those volunteers included civic leaders responsible for the Victims of Terror Fund and volunteers on the Jewish Federation’s Community Security Committee, which recommended security funding distribution that the Federation’s Board of Directors approved.

“This past year has been extraordinary in so many ways. We will be able to give the most funding in the history of the Jewish Federation, but we also have more community needs than ever because of the attack on three Pittsburgh congregations.”

Meryl Ainsman, Chair of the Jewish Federation’s Board of Directors

Total resources from all sources of support reached just short of $43.0 million, including the $6.3 million from the Victims of Terror Fund and $2.53 million in other funds that donors designated for community resiliency and Jewish community security.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh multiplies the impact of private giving by leveraging corporate and government dollars. The government dollars not included in the $36.8 million that the Jewish Federation allocated will enable a $15.4 million renovation at The New Riverview, a senior community; the Federation helped to secure and guarantee tax-credit funding for this renovation. Also not included in the $36.8 million total is money expected from the Victims of Crime Act of 1968 (VOCA) and the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP) from the U.S. government’s Office for Victims of Crime. The Jewish Federation helped to apply for funding from these sources.

The Jewish Federation’s eight main beneficiary agencies will receive a less than 1% reduction in funding from the Community Campaign. Pittsburgh’s three Jewish day schools—Community Day School, Hillel Academy and Yeshiva Schools—will receive an additional $5.3 million for scholarships from the Federation’s fundraising through Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. This $5.3 million is the Federation’s second-highest year ever for EITC fundraising.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s eight local beneficiary agencies are:

  • The Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh
  • Community Day School
  • Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
  • Jewish Association on Aging (which includes The New Riverview, formerly Riverview Towers)
  • Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Jewish Family and Community Services
  • Jewish Residential Services
  • Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh
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