Last month, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, an event that transformed the way our communities think about security.
But for me, the incident that changed the way I think about security happened two years prior.
It was around lunchtime when I heard the news that a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon opened fire on the North Valley Jewish Community Center, not a half-hour drive from where I was. The shooter, who murdered one person and injured five more, including three children, said it was “a wake-up call for Americans to kill Jews.”
That’s when I started calling myself a “security mom,” a mother who refuses to let her kids live in fear, refuses to allow her community to be vulnerable to attack.
With the leadership of Jewish federations, security moms – and others – have been making a difference, creating a security network to keep our communities safe.
To date, 45 Federations have launched community security initiatives, and are investing nearly $30 million per year in the security of their communal infrastructure.
Together we’ve advocated for government resources to help us secure our institutions, and partnered with the Secure Community Network to provide best practices and guidance for Jewish communities across the continent.
We’ve made amazing strides, but I’m sad to say that in the 22 years since that incident, the trouble for the Jewish community hasn’t abated.
In the last three years alone, we’ve lived through shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Chabad synagogue in Poway; as well as anti-Semitic attacks in Monsey, Boston, and the streets of New York and Los Angeles.
That’s why The Jewish Federations of North America launched LiveSecure, our initiative to broaden the security umbrella for Jewish communities across the country, bringing together private and public funds to keep us all safe.
At The Jewish Federations’ annual General Assembly this week, we announced that LiveSecure has set an ambitious goal: expanding our security umbrella to include every single one of the 146 Jewish communities with federations.
That will more than triple the current number of communities with comprehensive community security Initiatives, which function as a single point of contact for critical incident coordination, information and intelligence sharing, safety and security training, and resources for Jewish institutions.
And we want to help our existing security initiatives to upgrade and continually address emerging threats.
To meet that target, we have a two-phase campaign plan.
First, we seek to raise $54 million at a system-wide level to help every federation build their security system, with the expert help of the Secure Community Network, over the next three years.
To put that number in context: this will be the largest security fundraising initiative in the history of the North American Jewish community.
Amazingly, through the incredible generosity of transformational funders, both national foundations and families from across North America who are investing in this work, we are two-thirds of the way towards reaching that goal.
Next, we will use these funds to help each community plan, grow and raise the funds for the security initiatives they need to keep Jewish life flourishing.
Every synagogue, every Jewish community center, every day school, every camp, and yes, every part of the Jewish community should be able to function with the comfort that they are safe.
Alisa Doctoroff, chair of the education-focused Jim Joseph Foundation, made the link clear.
“We want this generation to feel connection and purpose, and we–at first, at the very base–need to make sure that they feel safe to achieve that,” she said in explaining the foundation’s generous investment in LiveSecure.
“Unless Jews feel safe in those institutions, and in those places where they can have those experiences, we will not be able to achieve our mission and our purpose.”
LiveSecure will make sure each of them has access to the training, expertise, intelligence, and professional advice that Community Security Initiatives offer.
And security moms like me will be able to breathe just a little easier.
Julie Platt is the national campaign chair for The Jewish Federations of North America, and the chair of the LiveSecure initiative.