Calmly Cultivating Security and Preparedness

A common principle that unites Jews throughout the Bay Area is the desire to live our lives with pride, purpose, and joy. Not just in our homes but in our communal gathering places. It’s also a First Amendment constitutional right — to be “Jewish out loud.”

But with antisemitic incidents on the rise, it can be challenging to live Jewishly without fear of being attacked for who we are.

Leading With Calm and Confidence

Our Federation is the leader in keeping our Bay Area community safe by working with our partners to increase their physical security and help members of our communities feel secure when coming together and participating in communal life. Rafi Brinner, Federation’s Director of Community Security, plays an integral role in these efforts to support our physical and psychological safety. And the impact has not only been potentially lifesaving, but lifestyle-affirming as well.

Rafael Brinner

“There’s an incredible balancing act that I think we all have to do,” said Michael Adler, Vice Chair of the Kehillah Jewish High School Board of Directors and leader of their Facilities Committee which tends to Kehillah’s security concerns. “You want your organization to feel warm and welcoming but at the same time you have to deal with the realities of the security of the property and the people inside of it… And Rafi understands that.”

Brinner consulted with the school’s leadership for classes and activities held outdoors, connected them with a security partner, Captain Saul Jaeger of the Mountain View Police Department, to conduct an evaluation at no cost to the school, and completed a comprehensive vulnerability assessment as well. “He [Brinner] wasn’t sitting there saying let’s have a 12-foot-high fence with razor wire… He knows that we don’t want to create an environment where people feel like they are going to a locked-down facility with moats, high walls, and gun turrets. You don’t want individuals making security decisions and giving counsel to be like Chicken Little ‘The sky is falling!’ You want to have some thoughtful deliberation as to how do we reframe our security and what are the steps to take. The Federation brings that skillset to the process. And they understand the tension between providing a comfortable environment while at the same time addressing the matters of security that we have to deal with in 2022.”

“Knowing What Must Be Done Does Away with Fear.” -- Rosa Parks

Beyond that, said Michael, The Federation played an instrumental advisory role in the application process, ultimately securing a $150,000 federal grant in October 2021 and a $94,227 California grant just a few months later.

“It really felt to me that we had a terrific partnership with the entire team that Federation brought to the table. And the result is that we were successful, we got the grants. And now we’re starting to work on their implementation.”

Congregation Netivot Shalom

But it’s not just day schools that have benefitted from the Community Security Program. Interfaith organizations, preschools, Hillel Houses, JCCs, and synagogues such as Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley have been equally impacted.

Ken Schnur

“Federation has done a bunch for us,” said Executive Director Ken Schnur. “We just told [Rafi] what we wanted to do and they said, ‘Well here’s some options,’ and then prepared a thorough threat assessment… And the help they gave us on grant proposals was invaluable. In addition to the federal grant we received a couple years ago, we just got a huge California grant last month for over $183,000, which is probably the biggest grant we have gotten for anything. So to call that a big help would be an understatement.”

“We Can’t Live In Fear” Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, Texas

Additionally, the Federation team consulted with synagogue staff, lay leaders and security officials after a dumpster fire in summer 2020 and after a frightening disruptive incident involving Anatoly Smolkin, in August 2021, in which he entered the synagogue during Shabbat services and shouted threats of violence to those who were present. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Subsequently, Rafi delivered a Safe Synagogue Seminar to 150 staff and congregants in January 2022. “It was all on Zoom and he did a great job. He taught us tools to recognize people and showed us what we should do in an emergency or in an active shooter situation. He’s always been there for us,” said Ken.

“I think one of the jewels in the Federation crown are the services that you have been offering us,” added Michael. “Being able to pick up the phone and call the Federation knowing that the person on the other end of the call is a security professional who gets it… It’s just hard to put a value to that.”

The Federation’s Community Security Program has trained nearly 600 staff, clergy, and community members around the Bay Area since the hostage-taking in Colleyville, Texas. These ranged from supporting incident response for cases of harassment, vandalism, and communicated threats to forecasting security needs, consulting on building security and delivering training on emergency preparedness and incident management tailored to our partner organizations’ needs. Additionally, by providing security assessments and grant guidance at no cost to organizations, the program has helped over 30 Jewish organizations successfully apply for government security grants in 2018-2021, resulting in grant awards totaling over $5 million.

Learn more about our Community Security Program.


March 24, 2022


Jon Moskin