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Federation CJA seeks $10M for new security plan

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Yair Szlak, chief executive officer of Federation CJA.

A $10-million fundraising campaign to increase and better co-ordinate security at Jewish community institutions in Montreal has been launched by Federation CJA.

Thirty-one synagogues, schools, agencies and other institutions have joined the Federation’s Community Security Network. It aims to upgrade infrastructure, train staff at each site and raise the level of awareness about the need for a collaborative approach to security.

The goal is to make the Community Security Network the “single point of contact for critical incident co-ordination, information and intelligence sharing, as well as safety and security training,” said Yair Szlak, the chief executive officer of Federation CJA.

An outside security firm has been hired to help develop a broad-based protocol, as well as site-specific measures.

The Federation is also working with the federal government’s Security Infrastructure Program, under which grants are issued to defray the costs of upgrades to buildings in communities that have a history of being victims of hate-motivated crime. The 31 institutions will be expected to contribute financially, as well, said Szlak.

Participation in the Community Security Network, which is voluntary, is still open, and any other institutions interested in knowing more should contact the Federation, he said.

Without revealing too much about what sort of enhancements are envisioned, Szlak said the emphasis is on improved surveillance technology. The money will not go toward the hiring of security guards, he said, as that will remain the responsibility of the individual institutions.

Szlak expects the new security measures to be in in place within the next 18 months.

READ: FEDERATION CJA HONOURS COMMUNITY LEADERS

Among the experts who have been consulted is Michael Masters, a retired U.S. Marine Corps captain who is the national director of the Secure Community Network, an American program instituted by Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“He came to Montreal to see our plan and is happy with the level of due diligence in finding the best practices to secure our community,” said Szlak.

Apart from the capital investment, the Federation is stressing that all community members must play a role in preparedness through heightened vigilance. “As I learned from my time in Israel, if you see something, say something,” said Szlak.

The initiative is a response to the worldwide rise in anti-Semitism and violent hate crimes, he said, adding that, “We have no indication or information from law enforcement agencies of an immediate threat to our community.”

Szlak described the Federation’s relationship with Montreal police and other law enforcement agencies as strong.

At least one Montreal synagogue has raised the question of why Jewish institutions here cannot hire armed guards, such as off-duty police officers, as is the case in the United States and, under certain conditions, in Ontario. But the Federation is not wading into that issue, as it’s “not legal in Quebec,” said Szlak.

The 2019 Combined Jewish Appeal will be officially launched on Aug. 22.

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