“Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
So wrote Emma Lazarus, her words enshrined on the base of the Statue of Liberty. All immigrants, especially Jews, thought that by coming to America they could escape poverty, gain opportunity and most of all leave behind the violence that dogged their lives.
We now find ourselves, however, in a situation that was unthinkable when our grandparents and great-grandparents first came here. The fact is, our enemies are capable of reaching across the world, and they have their eyes on American Jews.
As a former New York City Council member who represented the Brooklyn communities of Boro Park and Flatbush and a current board member of the OU, I have long been interested in the safety of the Jewish community. Not long ago I was invited to a security meeting that featured Homeland Security Commissioner Janet Napolitano as a guest speaker. Her remarks should constitute a wakeup call to action for the Jewish community.
She noted that more than 90 percent of Homeland Security Funds go to Jewish institutions, mostly synagogues. She also told us the U.S. government had picked up “chatter” indicating that terrorists are focused on attacking Jewish schools, particularly in America. She suggested that the Jewish community use all available resources to protect those institutions.
Our best defense is preparation. Luckily for us, several successful young professional men have come together to form Community Security Service, an organization consisting of security professionals ready and able to train members of our community on how to be vigilant.
Suggestions made by these professionals regarding school security include:
* Every school must have a safety committee.
* Every school must have a review made of the interior and exterior of its building.
* Paraphernalia such as locks for schoolroom doors and other safety equipment must be purchased.
* All teachers, administrators and children should participate in practice lockdowns on a regular basis.
* All should be taught how to respond to a terrorist invasion of the facility.
* All schools should be up to date on fire drill procedure.
Every Jewish community must make a supreme effort to ensure the security of its schools. Our rabbinical leaders and elected officials must ensure that security experts review each school building and devise a plan for its security. Money must be allocated in school budgets for such projects.
If you are a parent or grandparent with a child in one of our yeshivot, make it your business to find out how prepared your educational institution of choice is. Our love and concern for our children must motivate action on the part of parents and school officials.