Security: Jewish Community Centers

by Secure Community Network (SCN) 
Jewish Community Centers (JCC) provide the Jewish community with wide ranging social service, communal, recreational, cultural and recreational activities and programs. In addition the centers help provide leadership in the areas of staff recruitment and training, lay leadership development, field research, professional conferences and workshops, consultation, publications and special programming, enabling each constituent JCC to better serve the needs of its members and community.

Jewish Community Centers reflect the values of social justice and human rights that define the Jewish people. Through the efforts of dedicated men, women, and children an extensive network of social service delivery is provided to safeguard and enhance Jewish life and to meet the needs all people, Jews and non-Jews, in the communities they serve.

Unfortunately, JCCs could also become targets of terrorism or critical incidents. Several incidents have taken place since 1999, which made Jewish institutions across the United States begin reevaluating their security in the wake shootings like those at a Los Angeles area-based JCC that left five injured, three of them young children, and the more recent attack at a JCC in Kansas that left three dead.


With many of these attacks being perpetrated by 'lone wolves', the country is keenly aware that it is difficult to predict how, why and when terrorists may attack. For Jewish Community Centers, many of which are housed in multi-building and multi-story campus-like settings, security and crisis management planning become that much more critical to the health and vitality of the center and those who use its services.

Creating secure Jewish communal institutions must include the design of a security plan. A sound security plan will leave an institution better able to thwart and if necessary recover from a security breach.  Remember, the best way to protect your institution is to prepare for and prevent an incident's occurrence in the first place.

A security plan in a Jewish communal institution is as much a management issue as it is a technological one.  It involves motivating and educating all staff, leaders and community stakeholders to understand the need for security and to create and implement a coherent security plan.

Management must assess the risks and realities of the center to develop the security plan. Through this vulnerability assessment, changes or enhancements to the current security plan can be conducted. In addition management must set the tone that security is everyone's responsibility so that it becomes an integral part of the center's internal culture.

Community stakeholders have just as important role in ensuring the safety of the center. The community stakeholder must:

  • Understand what suspicious activity is, be watchful, ready and willing to report it
  • Know their building and report anything that looks out of place or missing, if you See Something, Say SomethingTM and go here to report suspicious activity
  • Actively cooperate with security directions, check-in procedures and other protocol
  • Help create a culture that is both secure and welcoming
  • Support the board and administration as they make decisions to create and implement an effective security plan

Good security practice flows down from top management at the center. It is important for administrators to share security information with staff and center patrons to increase security consciousness throughout the organization.

Security is a long-term issue facing Jewish Community Centers. It is not something that can be effectively addressed with each new alert or increased sense of risk. Solutions implemented in this manner can be costly and less effective.

Proactive security planning and communication are essential to keeping your community center safe and vibrant should a critical incident occur.

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