The Community Security Program: Keeping Us Safe, Secure, and Open

It can be difficult to truly feel safe in our communal spaces during times like these. And while federal, state, and local law enforcement make extraordinary efforts to protect the Jewish community and the public at large, true security comes not only by trusting in the abilities of the police, but through education, collaboration, and self-empowerment.

That is what the Community Security Program, helmed by Rafi Brinner, the Federation’s Director of Community Security, is doing for so many in our community who feel increasingly vulnerable to violence.

Marc Lipschutz

In the cases of Congregations Sha’ar Zahav and Beth Emek, fortunately, there were no direct threats that led them to partner with the Federation’s security team. Rather, in light of attacks at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Temple Beth Israel in Colleyville, and tragically, several others, their clergy, lay leaders, and members have become increasingly aware that arming themselves with knowledge is the key to their ongoing commitment to be open, hospitable, and safe.

"I can go on and on about our new security protocol and improvements...But we are in a much safer place because of it."

- Marc Lipschutz, President of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav

“We certainly recognized the need for enhanced security,” said Marc Lipschutz, President of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. “I think one reason Rabbi Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville was so incredible—and why I’m so emphatic—is because he had been trained for an active shooter possibility, and because of that, he was able to save his congregation.”

It is thus not surprising that Sha’ar Zahav engaged with the Community Security Program, which led not only to (successful) grant application support, but to the implementation of an entirely new security protocol that includes the distribution of key cards, new greeting practices, and safety measures that include a ‘structurally hardened perimeter,’ new exterior lighting, an improved intercom system, and a closed-circuit television that connects with the police department.

Congregation Beth Emek also engaged with the Community Security Program, inviting Brinner to assess and optimize their security measures.

“Not only did Rafi come out here and do a vulnerability assessment for us,” said Skylar Cohen, former Beth Emek president and current board member and treasurer. “He connected me with other congregations that have taken similar steps for their security, as well as potential vendors for some of the vulnerabilities that were found.”

Preparing the Community through Safety Training

The Federation’s community safety training webinars provided synagogues and other Jewish communal organizations invaluable instruction on active threat preparation, while allowing them to maintain their Jewish values of openness and inclusivity.

“To be welcoming, alert, safe and situationally aware do not have to be mutually exclusive. While there was a lot of value in having our local law enforcement come into our building, meet our people, and see our place, their focus was on how they would respond. Federation’s training, on the other hand, taught our people how to be prepared and how to be safer. Rafi understands that our people need to know how they are supposed to respond and he teaches it in a way that’s serious but calm and very kind… And he understands how to frame it for the Jewish community."

- Skylar Cohen, former Beth Emek president and current board member and treasurer

Navigating the Security Grant Application Process

Moreover, the Security Program team helped Beth Emek successfully navigate what can often feel like an overwhelming process in applying for federal security grant funding.

“The first time we applied for the grant was in 2019 and we were flying blind,” Cohen continued. “And though we did eventually get the grant, we felt the whole time that we had no idea what we were doing… But this time, with Rafi’s help, we were orders of magnitude more prepared than we were in 2019.”

Providing Tailored Security Consultations

In addition to grant application guidance and site assessments, the Community Security Program’s holistic approach to safety includes security consultations tailored to the specific needs of the organization, first aid, situational awareness instruction, information sharing, active threat training, and emergency preparedness.

The feedback, not only from synagogues but from nearly every community partner that has participated in the Community Security Program, has been exceptionally positive.

“It’s an incredibly important and valuable resource,” said Lipschutz. “And in my opinion, every Federation partner should be taking advantage of it.”


The Federation’s Community Security Program has trained more than 1000 staff, clergy, and community members around the Bay Area since the hostage-taking in Colleyville, Texas and has addressed more than 200 security support requests in the past year. These requests 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.

Categories: Community, Leadership


June 30, 2022


Jon Moskin