By Nicole Hawkins
Over the past couple of years, the Jewish communities of Dallas and Fort Worth have strengthened security and prepared for attacks similar to the ones that left 12 dead and many injured on Oct. 27 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in Poway, California, on April 27.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County are working to strengthen security and heighten preparedness in the Metroplex.
Executive director of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth, Bob Goldberg, said before the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Federation received a FEMA Homeland Security grant.
Goldberg said the grant was distributed to all Tarrant County Jewish congregations and organizations with a building in order to invest in “target-hardening equipment” such as video cameras, door access control and panic buttons.
The grant recipients met with security professionals who conducted risk assessments and made recommendations for what needed to be done to increase security, Goldberg said.
“I think the general consensus is that it hurts and we’re exhausted with these type of hateful acts,” Goldberg said of the shooting at Chabad of Poway, which left one dead and three injured. “But we have one choice and that is to go on, while at the same time doing everything we can to make sure that we’re protecting our institutions and our people.”
The Federation is preparing to hold a security summit with local community leaders, police, FBI and Homeland Security in order to “create a culture of security awareness,” Goldberg said.
The Federation of Greater Dallas recently appointed former deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department, Bill Humphrey, as its second director of the Federation’s Community Security Initiative.
According to the Federation’s website, the initiative was formed to ensure the Dallas Jewish community is prepared to handle security issues in a proactive manner; Humphrey is tasked with “convening, preparing and equipping Jewish organizations with the information and education needed to be safe and secure.”
“Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Community Security Initiative has created an infrastructure to provide security site vulnerability assessments, offer direction for guard services, monitoring services and technology and has a strong working relationship with city, state and federal law enforcement partners,” Humphrey told the TJP in an email.
Humphrey said that although no one could completely ensure an attack like this won’t happen in their community, “planning, education, training and communications are the beginning key components to creating a safe environment.”
Humphrey said safety is everyone’s responsibility, so if something doesn’t feel right to you, move, tell someone and put yourself in a safe place.
“Situational Awareness is paramount,” Humphrey said. “Know your surroundings, know what looks out of place, trust your instincts.”
Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky of Chabad of Dallas said a synagogue “should be a peaceful, a wonderful, calm place — to have this fear, it’s just appalling.”
Dubrawsky said Chabad of Dallas has an evacuation plan and lockdown procedures in place, works with the Community Security Initiative at the Federation and is consistently assessing what the synagogue’s weak spots are in order to heighten security.
Dubrawsky said if the evil act of one person at Chabad of Poway could cause so much negativity and commotion, then imagine the positive effect the Jewish community can have by performing good deeds, reaching out to and loving one another.
“You can’t chase darkness away with sticks and stones,” Dubrawsky said. “You can only do so by bringing light into the world, and that’s our job. We are to be a ‘light unto nations’ and brighten up God’s world. We will persevere.”