The horrific attack on Chabad of Poway leaving one dead, and four injured including the Shliach, along with the Chabad Shluchim in Nairobi during Pesach week is just another reminder as to how exposed some sites still are. A common question is “How do we balance being an open and welcoming environment, while having appropriate security protocols and systems in place?”
There is a multi-faceted and low-cost effective response that involves law enforcement, trained security volunteers, deterrent items and drilled protocols, alongside physical training for the Shluchim, site directors and staff.
To complement that site security protocol process (which can be set up within 36 hrs) are physical security upgrades (lighting, security cameras, lockdown braces etc.) which generally are one time costs, but can be expensive.
As the scourge of antisemitism continues to progress daily in Europe and the United States, Jewish sites are in dire need of upgrades in protocols and physical security. Alongside that threat are security warnings from intelligence agencies following the New Zealand Mosque massacre and the recent Sri Lanka attack imploring sites to put protocols and protective apparatus in place. Indeed, the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting is a prime example of a site visited a week or so before by the shooter who knew there would be little to no deterrence.
After 9/11 in response to a new era of terrorism, then-President George W. Bush and Congress established the NSGP grant commonly referred to as the Department of Homeland Security or DHS Grant.
This grant can be used for physical security upgrades or 100% of the grant amount towards contracted armed security companies or off duty police at your location. We see time and time again that this grant has been a boon to sites who otherwise could never afford such critical enhancements. Last year, in response to increased threats to Jewish locations and faith groups, DHS doubled that award amount. This year sites could get from $75,000 to $100,000.
This is a competitive grant and you have to complete an application that includes an “investment justification” where you must demonstrate why your site “deserves” the grant vs other local sites. Your site is in competition with other Jewish and non-Jewish faith sites.
DHS controls the grant by working with your state government emergency management entity that your nonprofit applies to. Any Chabad institution that is a synagogue or registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit may apply. A house of worship, according to the IRS, does not need 501c3 charitable status (please verify this with your local orthodox attorney or CPA as I claim to be neither.)
The quest for security funding is always challenging. We want to encourage as many Chabad sites as possible to apply for your shuls, schools and community centers. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that our communities can live, learn and grow in a safe and secure environment. The United States Government is encouraging us to do so with this grant and offering us a competitive opportunity, which is worth applying for.
There are commercial entities and security companies that may offer to write the grant & even offer manage the purchase and installation of approved items for you (just don’t be like the shliach who called us after being charged $66,000 for what ended up being $25,000 worth of poor grade security cameras). The quality and track record will vary.
Generally, based on our feedback and experiences of sites we have dealt with, this does not always go very well. You want the highest possible chance of success for a grant that has no identifiable algorithm. A good grant writer understands the needs, wants and experiences of a Chabad institution.
CSO does not directly benefit from offering grant writing services, however, we do partner with two of the best grant writers out there. Both have solid relationships with the Department of Homeland Security, varied state agencies and a stellar record on success. If you have a grant writer that you are happy with, CSO is happy to review/comment on your application before it is submitted.
While security is yet another responsibility on your shoulders as community leaders, it is not that difficult to put in place and we have done this at hundreds of sites.
We are on a personal & professional mission to make locations safer and bring us up to practical, common sense and affordable security levels where we blend physical barriers to slow down an attacker/s with protocols that speed up the response of staff, students and site members.
As one of the lottery slogan goes “You have to be in it to win it”. You have infinitely higher chances than the lottery and we must remember that we are dealing with the safety and security of our families and communities.
There is a rightfully natural expectation from your site members who look to you as community leaders to provide an appropriately safe & secure campus/environment for activities and programs. Indeed there are liability exposures on legal, ethical and moral grounds as well in not providing sufficient security.
1) Locations are divided by Urban (Award up to $100,00 and non Urban ($75,000). These
geographic delineation is made, recently neglected, are also eligible.
2) You do not have to ask for the full award amount ($100k or $75k) if you are a smaller
location or have already installed upgrades
3) Items include: CCTV, barriers, impact doors and windows, lighting, fencing, guest
management screening, and for the first time ever, up to 50% of the awarded amount can be put towards contracted private security officers or off duty and a lot more other items.
4) Project management – 36 months after being awarded the grant- Getting the grant is the easy part (actually, it’s not really), the really challenging part is the grant management. From a lot of experience, I would strongly suggest that your grant writer handles this tedious and very detailed process from beginning to end.
Please contact the CSO (www.thecso.org) for successful grant writers who have proven track records & beware of companies or opportunists who will inevitably be calling over the next couple of weeks before the mid May deadline for applications (varies by State).
May we never need these items and I look forward, iyH, to an early retirement from the security profession with the coming of Moshiach.
Zalman Myer-Smith is the Executive Director of www.thecso.org, a Florida based volunteer Community Security Organization liaising, training, and working with law enforcement agencies and serving Jewish community synagogues, schools, and centers. Zalman is also the Director of Security for both Lubavitch Educational Center in Miami and for Chabad of Florida.