Last month we evaluated the significance of events at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and mourned the loss of our fellow Jews engaged in prayer. Naturally, we turn to our own synagogue and ask questions of ourselves. "What are we doing to protect ourselves from a similar attack?" "Am I safe at ENJC?"
Of course these are the right questions to ask. For those who attended the rally at the Dix Hills Jewish Center, you heard the Suffolk County Police Commissioner discuss a program called SHIELD, Suffolk County Police Department's Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Crime program. Over the past two years, Rabbi Silverman and members of our Security Committee have attended Suffolk County Police Department's "Safety in the Sanctuary" active shooter seminar. Based on this seminar, with visits by Suffolk Police Department's Counter Terrorism Liaison to the ENJC and our own initiatives, we have taken a number of steps to enhance the security in and around the building.
Some of our actions are clearly visible, while others are not. We have added high intensity LED lighting around the exterior of the building–the first phase of our lighting upgrade. We replaced all the classroom doors with steel doors, and we have installed security cameras throughout the building to help us monitor and track suspicious activity. We are in the process of developing a Building Emergency Action Plan to address emergencies that include fires, bomb threats and active shooter situations. Once finalized, portions of the plan will be shared with clergy, staff and ENJC members so that everyone understands their role in various situations.
The one thing we have to recognize is that physical security is not simply a matter of installing locks. Locks only work when properly utilized. In our case, the open door policy, whereby we unlock doors during services and events MUST come to an end. The building can no longer be freely open to anyone that walks onto the property. Although no one wants to wait at the door to be let in, the safety and security of our members and guests must come first. We must be alert when opening doors and be aware of who is coming into the building. Key fobs will be issued to the entire congregation in order to control access to the building. More information will be provided as we move forward with this project.
This past June, members of our Security Committee applied for a grant from the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and I'm proud to announce that we were successful in our efforts and were awarded a grant to be used to further strengthen our security posture. The effort to utilize the grant will take time as we identify and prioritize the needs of the building and our congregants.