Federation Notes: Creating a safer community

In the fall of 2018, the quarterly meeting of the Jewish community’s organizations and congregations, convened by the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, abruptly set aside its intended agenda.

A few days earlier on Shabbat, a horrific act of murder had taken place in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

In a conference room filled with shocked and saddened Jewish community leadership, the Emergency Preparedness Committee (EPC) was formed.

Guidance came from Jimmy Wasson, Director of Security for the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus, along with Jay Jacobs, Campus Director (and CEO of the Martin Pear JCC on the Campus).

The leadership of the Federation at that time – board chairs David Weiner and Mark Feldman, along with myself – repurposed the next several months of community meetings in order to address the critical issue of community security. Lay and professional leaders from across the Valley and rabbis from the spectrum of Jewish life in our community stepped up to chair or joined the EPC’s subcommittees.

Today the EPC is continuing to build and strengthen its structure to be prepared for a crisis in our community, with “crisis” defined as “a situation which challenges human life.”

Subcommittees include activation/communication/social media, crisis/spiritual counseling,

finance, program/community agencies, volunteers/VIPs and security. Protocols and procedures already are or will be put into place for coordinating volunteers, opening emergency shelter and food locations, providing mental health and crisis/grief counseling, working with security officials, media relations and organizing community gatherings.

Security Director Jimmy Wasson has assisted numerous community organizations with assessments of their security needs and facilitating access to training opportunities. A communications and emergency notification system is in place, and organizations are strongly advised to sign up two representatives who are available to receive notifications on an ongoing basis.

The Emergency Preparedness Committee is open to all organizations in the Greater Phoenix Jewish community.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been sent to all organizations, outlining the responsibilities for organizations that join the EPC; those organizations will be required to submit a signed MOU to become a member.

The EPC’s goal is to create a strong, coordinated and cohesive resource, the key piece of which is having every local Jewish organization participate, as well as signed up on the emergency notification system, so that our community is prepared for that which we pray never happens.

For further information about the EPC and to join the emergency notification system, please contact epc@jewishphoenix.org.

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