October Security Committee Update

“Should Beth David make any changes to the security posture of our community and, if so, what should we do?”
This is a question that will be presented to the membership at the Annual Meeting on December 9th.

The “proper” level of security practices is a highly personal subject for all us that is influenced by individual perspectives on the balance of welcoming-ness and safety, our past experience, our concerns about an unknowable future, uncontrollable external events, and other factors. If you think about it, it is clear that there is “no right answer”. No matter what we do, subsequent events could prove that we should have done things differently.

For the past fifteen months, the Security Committee has been gathering data on best practices, talking to experts in the local law enforcement community, the FBI, the JCRC, and the ADL. We have also been putting out questions on Security practices to USCJ-affiliated Synagogues across the country and polling our closest five synagogue neighbors. The Committee will be sharing this information with you in two forums:

The first will be a special meeting to be held at Beth David on Sunday, November 11th starting at 10:00 a.m. in the Sanctuary. At this meeting we will have guest speakers from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the ADL. The speakers will be offering their input on best practices for security at religious institutions based on many years of experience. We will also be hearing about the frequency of hate crimes within a radius of approximately 100 miles from us, and the activities of various hate groups. After about 40 minutes of presentations, you will be able to ask your questions of the experts for more information or clarification on anything they have presented. We hope you make it a priority to attend. The meeting is anticipated to run about 2 hours.

The second meeting is our Annual Membership Meeting on December 9th starting at 10:00 a.m. The presentation at this meeting will include a brief summary of what we learned on November 11th, a summary of what we have already learned of the practices of other USCJ Synagogues, a summary of the security practices of our five neighboring synagogues, and the questions to be decided which are:

Question #1: Should our front door be locked or unlocked during peak periods of membership use of our building? If we vote to maintain our current practice, all further discussion and decisions are unnecessary. If we vote to change our current practice and move to a locked door all of the time, our membership will have to adopt the use of key cards. But, we will also need to make accommodation for guests, members who forget their cards, and for those of us who would view the use of a key card on Shabbat as forbidden. For this reason, a locked door requires a person to monitor the door and admit people requesting entrance who do not appear threatening. Who this door monitor should be gives rise to Question #2.

Question #2: Should the door monitoring function be performed by one of our existing employees (most likely one of our facility employees), or should we engage the services of an outside security company to provide a trained officer to act as a security guard during those periods when our building is most heavily used by our membership? If the membership votes to use one of our existing employees to act as the door monitor, then the rest of the discussion and decisions are unnecessary.

If the membership wants to retain the services of a trained security professional, then a third question requires a decision.

Question #3: Should the security guard we hire be armed or unarmed? There is a difference in deterrent effect, welcoming-ness, and cost depending on the answer to this question. We can assume an unarmed guard will cost us approximately $60K per year for coverage anytime there are more than about 50 members in the building: Shabbat, Religious School, various Haggim, heavily attended events like BBQ & Barchu or the Scholar in Residence for example, and some of our daily Minyanim. An armed security guard costs about twice that number.

If the membership votes to hire a professional security guard, the Board of Directors will figure out how to pay for the additional cost as part of the annual budget process.

The Security Committee will not be making a recommendation at the Annual Meeting. Its job is to present data to help the membership become informed and to implement whatever decisions the membership makes. Please help us help you become more informed by planning to attend the November 11th meeting with the Security Experts and then coming to the December 9th meeting prepared to vote your preferences.

This article was published in the October issue of D’var –Download PDF  


Previous post:

Next post: