Federation Security Experts Collaborate During Cleveland Conference
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By Ed Carroll
Security for each Jewish federation is a “different animal,” Jim Harnett, director of community-wide security for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland told attendees at the beginning of the four-day Security Director’s Conference and PRT Training.
The Jewish Federation of Cleveland hosted nearly 30 security directors from April 9-12 at its Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Building in Beachwood. Among cities that security personnel came from included Youngstown, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Detroit and Los Angeles, all coming to network, share information, discuss best practices and to share ideas. All hoped to take back information that could tame potential security issues in their communities.
“There’s really no template for what we do or one size fits all,” said Hartnett. “Each of us has (a) different set of priorities, allocation of resources, support personnel, security budgets, and most importantly, executive management support for what we do."
"However, there’s great value in us coming together as a group to learn from one another, study each other’s security operations, share best practices and collaborate on future strategies and our shared mission to protect each of our Jewish communities.”
Jewish Federation of Cleveland President Stephen H. Hoffman offered opening remarks and compared the security director’s conference to conferences he had attended with other federation presidents.
“If you walk away with one idea, it’s worth the schlep,” Hoffman said. “It’s worth all the time you spent connecting to get here and I know you’ll put it to good use.”
Oren Baratz, senior vice president of external affairs for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, said there was a cumulative total of more than 800 years of security experience among the conference attendees and explained the Cleveland organizations’ “new way” of looking at security since Hartnett joined the team and one of their primary focuses was increasing awareness in the community.
“Some of us who come from Israel, the issue of awareness there is something that’s already genetic,” he said. “We understood that we can’t have the same expectation over here. We have to heighten awareness. We have to have a very fine balance between awareness and not creating panic. And how do you find the balance in an organization that thrives on community, how do you increase security but you don’t create fear? It’s a balance that we all the time try to manage.”
Most of the attendees came into the conference eager to learn new practices, such as Eli Elfassi, an Israel Defense Force veteran and the director of security for the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C.
“I hope it will give me the point of view of a corporation and ideas from different groups,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of learning to learn from other organizations, like Cleveland.”
Brenda Moxley, director of community security with the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, agreed that the value of this conference is the exchange of ideas.
“While the federation missions are very similar, how we actually implement our programs within each community is very different,” Moxley said. “But to have the support of the other directors and hearing about (what they’ve done), I already have learned so much just in the interactions I’ve had (so far). You hear about the other things federations are doing then you take the things you’re doing and share them.”
Every federation security director has a ‘best practice’ in their pocket, said Jason Periaid, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, and sitting in a room with other peers helps everyone share what works best.
“Since we started doing this (conference), there’s always one or two takeaways that makes the entire trip worth it,” he said of the conference, now in its third year.
Hartnett told the Cleveland Jewish News that sharing ideas is ideal because the goal of everyone at the conference is to protect their Jewish communities.
“The amount of experience in here from all law enforcement backgrounds – CIA, FBI, Department of Defense, Secret Service, IDF, state and local police – it’s a great sharing of knowledge,” Hartnett said. “The … four days we spend together, we’ll each come away with two or three ideas to further secure our Jewish communities.
"We’re going to continue to do these (conferences) year to year, moving to federation to federation, and also, we’re more connected now, with sharing intelligence, technologies and best practices that further help to ensure the protection of our Jewish communities. A big focus of this conference is training the community (on) what’s their role, knowing what to look for, how to work with the police, how to be better prepared before some unforeseen event might show up at their synagogue or their school.”