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I could hear a man screaming, ranting on Beth Congregation Israel’s Facebook feed on Saturday as the hostage situation unfolded. My sister had called and directed me to the Facebook live stream and as soon as I realized there was a live hostage situation, I contacted Mark Dowd, director of SAFE Cincinnati, Federation’s community security initiative, and Jackie Congedo, director of JCRC, Federation’s public affairs arm.
Like many of you, I watched with anxiety as the day’s events unfolded. Anxiety, but also – confidence and hope. Confidence, that local law enforcement in Colleyville, Texas had prepared for something like this. Hope, that Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker had been equipped with the same training that some of our own professional, congregational and lay leadership had received. In fact, after the ordeal, Rabbi Cytron-Walker said: “Over the years, my congregation and I have participated in multiple security courses. We are alive today because of that education.”
During the entire ordeal, Federation’s SAFE Cincinnati remained in contact with our local police who were requested to engage with the local Jewish community and increase security around Jewish Cincinnati facilities where possible. We also coordinated updates to our community throughout the day. Federation’s JCRC was in touch with our civic allies and worked to respond to media inquiries. We shared news of a vigil being hosted by rabbinic leadership and worked with the Greater Cincinnati Board of Rabbis to share this statement.
Finally, relief washed over me when Rabbi Cytron-Walker and the others were freed, uninjured.
The anxiety I felt is not completely gone. But I have confidence in our Jewish community and in our Federation, that we have made very wise investments in our security education and training programs, and our physical security measures. To that end, we are taking several steps in the coming days and weeks to continue those safety and security practices, and add more. Those include:
• Convening a meeting of security and congregational groups to review best practices and protocols to both react to and prevent any threat
• Joining our parent organization, Jewish Federations of North America, in launching LiveSecure to support Jewish security around the nation. SAFE Cincinnati is working to identify the next stages in our community’s needs and we will provide more details on how to contribute soon.
• Increase community preparedness and awareness by engaging each and every nonprofit Jewish organization in individual active assailant and suspicious activity recognition training
• Mobilizing the Jewish Federations’ Advocacy Corps and all our leadership groups to secure a doubling of Congress’ Non-Profit Security Grant funding from $180M per year to $360M. We urge you to contact our congressional delegation and ask that they support this necessary increase by clicking here.
• Asking you to tell your senators to confirm Professor Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the US Special Envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.
On this Martin Luther King Day, I am reminded of words spoken by Dr. King during his last speech in Memphis, Tennessee:
“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be.”
Thanks to the guidance of our professional and lay leadership teams, I am confident that we have the readiness and the determination needed for any challenge ahead.
Danielle V. Minson
Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
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