– Alan Poland, Community Security Director, Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

October 27, 2023, marks the five-year anniversary of the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States. On that date in 2018, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting took place, when a perpetrator took the lives of 11 innocent people and wounded six others. The attacker was tried, found guilty, and on August 3, 2023, sentenced to death by lethal injection.

This senseless act of violence will remain etched in our collective memory.

For those affected, the pain and sorrow are still palpable.  But as we approach this somber anniversary, it’s crucial to not only reflect on what was lost, but also to focus on the progress made in ensuring the safety and security of our Jewish communities across the nation, including here in South Palm Beach County.

Over the past three years, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, in collaboration with Secure Community Network (SCN), has worked tirelessly to enhance our community’s safety, knowledge, and readiness to respond to threats.

As the Community Security Director, I’ve had the privilege of being part of these efforts. SCN, a network of former law enforcement and security professionals, has played a vital role in establishing uniform standards and providing essential training to Jewish communities throughout North America.

Here’s a glimpse of the progress we’ve made within our Community Security Program:

Threat, Vulnerability, and Risk Assessments (TVRA): We’ve conducted comprehensive security assessments of our facilities to guide organizations in strengthening their defenses against potential threats. These assessments not only improve security, but also assist in securing federal grants for further enhancements.

Countering Active Threat Training: More than 3,000 community members have undergone SCN core training, which equips individuals with life-saving skills such as Situational Awareness, Active Threat Response, and Stop the Bleed techniques. Ongoing training initiatives will ensure that our community remains prepared for any eventuality.

Consulting: Our community now has access to security professionals who provide valuable guidance on special events, security concerns, and emergency protocol development.

Intelligence and Information Sharing: We’ve established effective channels for sharing critical information and analyzing incidents, both within our community and with law enforcement. This collaboration enhances our ability to secure our community effectively.

Community Security Council: Our Community Security Council, comprising representatives from various organizations, fosters collaboration and communication, enabling us to respond promptly to emerging threats and security challenges.

Grant Consulting: We actively encourage organizations to apply for the Federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) and provide assistance in reviewing applications. In the last three years, our community has been awarded over $3.4 million in NSGP funds, enhancing our communal security infrastructure.

While we’ve made significant strides, there is still work to be done. Looking ahead, we must prioritize additional training for our community members, including drills to ensure readiness during emergencies. Preparedness is key to mitigating the impact of incidents, like the Tree of Life shooting.

Moreover, I urge more organizations to get involved in Federation’s Community Security Council meetings. Your participation can contribute to a safer and more secure community.

As we remember the Tree of Life Synagogue and honor the lives lost, let us reaffirm our commitment to vigilance, unity, and resilience. By continuing to strengthen our security measures, enhance our training, and foster open communication, we are doing all we can to safeguard that such tragedies are not repeated.