June 18, 2020 – As Jewish houses of prayer and institutions in Houston begin to reopen, one thing that shouldn’t return to normal: security. Prior to COVID, the traditional approach to security was decentralized. Each entity conducted its own assessment and developed its own safety plan.
“We need to own our security,” Brad Orsini told the JRAN audience. “In the event of an active threat, every person – not just the leadership – needs to know what to do.
“We need to create a culture of empowerment, vigilance, collaboration and resiliency.”
Brad Orsini is senior national security advisor for the Secure Community Network with the Jewish Federations of North America. Previously, Orsini served as director of Jewish Community Security in Pittsburgh. It was in Pittsburgh where a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue during Shabbat morning services on Oct. 27, 2018, and killed 11 people.
The Secure Community Network is the nonprofit national Homeland Security initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. See securecommunitynetwork.org.
SCN’s mission is to be the one-stop shop to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in North America. That mission includes security training.
Orsini explained that SCN’s program is built on three points:
1) Assessment: a walk-through of the building with the leadership of every organization to discover physical and organizational vulnerabilities
2) Development of a drill and training program for that particular facility
3) Development of a plan to mitigate threats
“Law enforcement does a fantastic job responding to events,” said Orsini. “They are reactive in nature. We need to be proactive in the Jewish community. The day is gone when we can solely rely on police response to keep us safe.
“We have not done a good job of educating and training the community on what we need to do if something bad happens to us.”
Training is a critical component of a good security program, stressed Orsini.
“All we can do is prepare. The only thing we have control over is how much we prepare, how much awareness we have in the community. Never dismiss any sign of hate. Always report it.
“We are on an upward spiral of anti-Semitism. Attacks on the Jewish community are not letting up. When we get out of this COVID and go back to normal activities, I encourage everybody to treat every opening as if we are on High Holidays. We get blamed for so many things. We’ve become a target.”