To: CBI Membership
From: Ali Climo, President, Board of Trustees
Date: January 2, 2019
Following the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we have all seen increasing concern for how Jewish institutions, especially places of worship, can protect those who enter to pray, to learn, or to gather for events. The dilemma is an old one: how do we provide for our common security without losing our identity as a welcoming community open to all?
We wanted you to know that our CBI Security Committee and Board of Trustees are taking very seriously our responsibilities in seeking to maintain the balance between safety and hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), the hospitality exemplified by our patriarch Avraham.
First, you should know of the measures developed by our Security Committee that have been in place for quite some time:
- We have a written protocol on responses to various kinds of emergency situations which is updated when needed;
- We have strong working relationships with the Asheville Police Department and the local FBI office. APD, in particular, is very cooperative in conducting walk-throughs of our newly renovated building to recommend security enhancements, and in providing training sessions for the security team and synagogue leadership;
- We have a uniformed police presence during the High Holy Days and certain other high-profile events during the year;
- We have provided synagogue staff with written information on dealing with subjects such as suspicious packages, telephoned threats, and unfamiliar visitors during the day;
- We have long maintained a single point of entry, keeping all doors locked to outside entry but available for quick exit with push bars;
- During Shabbat and other services, we open our doors and recruit volunteer greeters from among our membership, who are supplied with guidelines on how to react to unfamiliar visitors at services (please consider becoming a door greeter!).
And there are other measures in place now that we have moved back in to our beautifully renovated facility:
- Our entry door will remain locked during business hours; visitors will announce themselves via intercom, be identified via a video camera, and be allowed in by remote electronic access;
- We have video surveillance cameras at the front and rear of our building, viewable by staff from their computer monitor;
- A limited number of front door entry keys, alarm system fobs, and personal codes will be distributed to certain congregants on a need-to-have basis, after approval by the Board president. The board is working on formalizing a policy regarding who is granted this access;
- A member of the Security Committee resides in close proximity and can generally arrive at the synagogue within a reasonable time upon receiving an after hours call from the alarm company.
Other security measures are either planned or under consideration, including:
- Situational Awareness and Active Shooter training and drills for members of the Security Committee;
- Continued encouragement of situational awareness by congregants: “If you see something, say something;”
- Additional training of synagogue staff, leadership, and frequent users of the building (such as Sunday School personnel), including periodic instruction by the Asheville Police Department;
- Investigation into the potential need for other physical measures, such as additional inside and outside cameras and bullet resistant windows;
- Ensuring our first aid trauma kits and other medical supplies are kept up to date and are appropriate to our needs, and providing basic first aid and “stop the bleed” training to key staff and interested congregants.
According to experts in the field of security, the most important element in improving our safety is changing our culture from complacency to responsibility: the notion that security is everyone’s job. We must promote the practice of being aware of our surroundings; reporting things that cause us concern; using common sense measures like not propping doors open, and not allowing unknown people into our building.
Our challenge will be to remain responsible and security-conscious while not diminishing our tradition and culture of welcoming the stranger. I am confident that we can meet this challenge and, with your help continue to be the warm and welcoming community we have always been.