New York, Cleveland Look To Each Other For Security Best Practices

Tags: Federation, Security

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

During a time of increased antisemitism in Ohio and nationwide, providing security for the Jewish community has become an even greater challenge. As part of an effort to better address those issues, JFC Security, LLC, the security provider of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, shared with New York officials the best practices used by the organizations.

Mitchell Silber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, told the Cleveland Jewish News following an Oct. 7 meeting at the Federation in Beachwood that his Community Security Initiative, which includes his organization and the UJA Federation of New York, looks to Cleveland because of its years of experience in this field.

“The Cleveland Federation’s program has been in existence since 2013,” he said. “We’re relatively newcomers; our program is only 2½ years old. And Cleveland has steadily built and evolved and changed their program and advanced their programs that we thought there was a lot to learn from the program here. And even since our inception, we wanted to come out here.”

There are several best practices Cleveland employs that New York would like to replicate, Silber said, including its training programs for clergy, lay leaders and others. While New York does have training, Cleveland has a more robust program with more involved training partnerships with community members and institutions, he said.

New York’s Community Security Initiative also studied Cleveland’s use of roving guards to protect different Jewish institutions, Silber said. As part of this effort, he said Cleveland also provides an example to follow regarding community engagement.

Cleveland’s “a very networked community,” he said. “And it seems that from some of the visits that we’ve done in person, you’ve got institutions not only partnering with Jewish Federation, the security team, but they’re also partnering sort of horizontally, if they’re geographically next to each other, maybe cameras from one side of the street, focusing on the other side of the street so that both institutions have coverage, but ironically, they’re covering their neighbor, not themselves.”

According to deputy chief Harold Pretel of the Cleveland Division of Police, there are lessons Cleveland can learn from New York as well. For instance, New York’s use of a telephone number, 888-NYC-SAFE, for public reporting of suspicious activities, is an example Cleveland might want to follow, Pretel, who also handles homeland special operations and public safety, said.

New York reviews and acts on these tips in real time, he said.

“That was a good eye-opener because it does engage the community, allows the community to give feedback or give information on something they might see, which can be a concern,” Pretel said.

Meetings like this are integral to providing the best possible security to the community, he said.

“Our strength is in the partnerships not only with the Federation, but with our fellow law enforcement entities around the country and certainly around the globe, a common mission, so that we keep our respective areas safe, make sure that our area of operations remains as safe as possible,” Pretel said.

Oren Baratz, Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s senior vice president of external affairs, told the CJN that continued collaboration and sharing of best practices, is important because Cleveland, like other cities, faces challenges in protecting the Jewish community.

The first challenge is how to effectively address security concerns without infringing on community members’ daily lives, he said. The second challenge is complacency as the community may be vigilant after an incident involving the Jewish community, whether in Cleveland or elsewhere, but that fades over time.

What Cleveland can learn from New York includes how to better use volunteers to supplement current security measures, Baratz said.

“We’re doing it, but I think we can do more,” he said.

Looking ahead, Silber said there will be more discussions between the two cities on best practices and that could include the team from Cleveland coming to New York to see what the Community Security Initiative is doing. Beyond that, he said New York will likely share what it learned from Cleveland’s best practices with its counterparts in states such as New Jersey and other cities with large Jewish populations, including Los Angeles, Boston and Miami.

New York’s Community Security Initiative can be an “emissary on behalf of Cleveland, because we know what some of our other partners may need and there in Cleveland (have) some of those things,” Silber said.

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