Just a few years ago the idea of having security guards or intricately planned security systems at temples and other Jewish institutions would have been dismissed as fearful thinking. But with public shootings outnumbering the days of the year in 2019 in this country, citizens have recognized that a sea change has occurred in American culture, uprooting the sense of safety of all Americans.
As detailed in this week’s Journal on page one, this behavioral shift has had a deep social and economic impact on Jewish institutions. Weighed down by a lack of membership – just one-third of all American Jews affiliate with a temple or Jewish institution according to the Pew Research Center – Jewish organizations have scrambled for years to remain fiscally viable.
For years, many of these organizations have had to find creative ways to balance their books while maintaining the infrastructure of their buildings. Now, with the rise of threats in the community, temples and other Jewish institutions, including the Journal, must deal with a new challenge: paying for security upgrades that in some cases will cost well over $100,000.
While public funding is available through state and federal grants to help with security, these applications can take months to complete, and will be awarded to a limited amount of applicants. Combined Jewish Philanthropies has also stepped up, and gave out $150,000 in grants in fiscal 2019.
These grants are a good start, and they will likely increase and continue in the future. But most Jewish institutions don’t have months to put together grant proposals. Funding is needed immediately to reassure congregants that they are safe, and employees of Jewish institutions that they are secure.
If you are a member of a temple or affiliated with a Jewish institution – or would like to get more involved with communal life – please consider donating to a security fund. Call your temple or the institution of your choice and ask how you can help. It’s also an excellent opportunity to show solidarity with these vital organizations that provide a sense of place and community. As America changes, we must also shift and meet the challenges that we face.