It has been a little over a year since JUF launched a major security initiative. Since the primary tool we use to gauge and improve security at local Jewish facilities is a comprehensive audit, we employed the same tool to access our own early efforts.
The initiative was launched to address three new, permanent Jewish security realities:
- More threats and more attacks against institutions and individuals.
- More requests from hundreds of non-JUF affiliated groups for security assistance.
- Insufficient financial, human, software, & equipment resources to meet current & emerging needs.
In turn the initiative seeks to establish three major new realities:
- That Chicago Jewish communal life is secure; no one is deterred from participating because of fear.
- That Jewish communal security decisions are based NOT on financial considerations but objective security and programmatic considerations.
- That JUF will provide more security resources to every (300+) Chicago Jewish group to realize #s 1 & 2.
|The audits [of facilities] are key: they identify what public grants should be applied for, what training is most needed, what is needed to launch or strengthen a security committee, what law enforcement agencies need to be engaged, and much, much more.|
Our audit discovered that JUF's first-year operations were materially leveraged by annual campaign donations that allowed an integrated system to already be in place: fundraising, advocacy, grant writing, research, real estate operations, and trusting partnerships with agencies, synagogues, and law enforcement. This integrated system accelerated progress towards realizing those three goals.
By the numbers, since the start of our expanded efforts in early 2022:
- 150+ audits, trainings, and event security plans were conducted for every type of Jewish group. The audits are key: they identify what public grants should be applied for, what training is most needed, what is needed to launch or strengthen a security committee, what law enforcement agencies need to be engaged, and much, much more.
- JUF's advocacy led to an Illinois state government non-profit security grant budget line of $20 million. Half was awarded to Jewish groups, many of whom we assisted in the process, including by using the results of our audits as the basis for their requests.
- Dozens of groups have also received our help applying for federal security grants, and we fully, formally filed on behalf of four (non-JUF affiliated) groups: two temples and two Jewish senior homes, totaling $350K+ in grant requests.
- 80+ groups completed JUF's most comprehensive community security survey ever…providing revealing, actionable data for how JUF can best help.
Forecasting ahead, we will continue expanding collaboration with law enforcement, increasing social media/dark web monitoring, convening a council of Jewish institutional security professionals and a large training conference before the high holidays, helping more organizations develop/update their own security plans and committees, growing the types of trainings offered, expanding the available products and utilization of our master contract/vendor security offerings, upgrading software inter-connectivity between communal facilities and law enforcement, and conducting a community tabletop crisis scenario exercise.
We are helping make our community safer. We are far from done.
The point is not to make our facilities-where we gather to pray, learn, celebrate, and recreate- impenetrable armed fortresses. They must be welcoming, from the inside and outside.
We must increase both actual security and, just as importantly, the sense of security for those considering entering our communal spaces. Security will not, and should not, look the same at every facility. The sense of welcome and safety should.
Ultimately, the audit finding that matters most is whether our community is growing-in safety and Jewish experiences.
Michael H. Zaransky is the Chair of the JUF Security Committee.