After the attempted arson attack against Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield several weeks ago, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ went into immediate action. Its security team contacted the FBI and county prosecutor’s office and helped with communications to congregants, preschool parents, and the community. Luckily, the culprit was quickly apprehended, and no one was physically injured — but the federation’s work did not end there.
“The relationship that we established with Temple Ner Tamid is one that impacts all levels of the community, including the facilities staff, teachers, lay leaders, executive director, and, of course, the rabbi,” Robert Wilson, the federation’s chief security officer, said. “We have collaborated to build competencies for responding to security incidents and laid the foundation for a long-term partnership that will improve the safety and preparedness of all stakeholders.”
Within a few days, Mr. Wilson, Chip Michaels, the federation’s director of security training, and Dov Ben-Shimon, its CEO, held a town hall meeting. Attendees included Temple Ner Tamid’s executive leadership and the parents of its Shoresh School students. The goal was to calm nerves, answer questions, and relay the security plans and procedures that already were in place.
By building relationships between congregants, security professionals, and local law enforcement, the federation has developed the communication channels necessary to facilitate an immediate response when an incident occurs. It ensures that procedures for responding to security incidents are concise, understandable, and known. The federation assesses physical security equipment vulnerabilities to understand what’s needed to improve to secure space, funding locally through budgets where possible, and state and federal security grants where applicable.
In the weeks after the incident at Ner Tamid, Mr. Wilson and Dorit Zimerman, the federation’s security grant writer, met with the synagogue’s executive leadership and security committee. They went over recommendations for further physical security protocols and enhancements, and assisted Ner Tamid as it applied for a federal nonprofit security grant. Since the grant application is a multiyear process, the federation’s board of trustees unanimously voted to fund security enhancements in and around the synagogue building immediately.
“The aftermath of this event shows that by training our people to understand our emergency procedures and response options to a security incident, we develop capable guardians,” Mr. Wilson said. “Being prepared is key.”
The federation’s community security initiative is an invaluable resource for the synagogues and other Jewish institutions in the Greater MetroWest community. To learn more about the services it offers and how it helps make our community security strong, go to