By Rebbetzin Susan Alter-Klaperman
“Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .”
So wrote Emma Lazarus, her words enshrined on the base of the Statue of Liberty. All immigrants, especially we Jews, thought that by coming to America we could escape poverty, gain opportunity, but, most of all, leave behind the violence and the massacres which dogged our lives daily. We now find ourselves in a situation unthinkable when our grandparents first came here in the early 1900s. Our enemies, capable of reaching across the world (as on 9/11), are saying, give us those Jews in America, we will kill them, we will rape the women, and most assuredly we will slaughter their children.
As a board member of the OU, and as one who is known to be interested in the safety of the Jewish community, I was invited to a security meeting in which the guest speaker was former Homeland Security Commissioner Janet Napolitano. Her remarks were a wake-up call to action. She stated that 94% of all Homeland Security grants went to Jewish institutions, applied mostly to synagogues. She informed us, however, of the startling fact that the U.S. government had recently picked up “chatter” that the terrorists were focused on and preparing to attack Jewish schools, particularly in America. She suggested that the Jewish community use whatever resources were available to protect those institutions.
Shortly after that meeting, I arranged a gathering on December 20, 2012, of all of the Five Towns yeshivas. I explained the situation as presented and encouraged every school to get busy securing their institutions. Also at that gathering were experts in security planning and execution available to help any school that was prepared to ready itself against attack. Some schools responded and took this extremely important offer to heart; others did nothing. In attendance at that meeting were principals, teachers, and other administrators. There were no parents, no school presidents, no members of any board of education. That was a big mistake. To date not enough has been done. And ennui has settled in.
We are in a crisis mode. Our best defense is preparation. The following suggestions made by expects should be taken to heart and followed:
• Every school must have a safety committee.
• Every school must have a review made of the interior and exterior of its building.
• Paraphernalia, such as locks for the doors of school rooms and other equipment, must be purchased.
There are also many other suggestions that should be followed with regard to Target Hardening.
• All teachers, administrators, and children should practice lockdowns on a regular basis.
• All should be taught how to respond to terrorist invasions of schools.
• As a reminder, all schools should be up to date on their fire drill procedures.
There is much to learn and much to do. Please call the Five Towns Jewish Times at 516-569-0502 for any information or guidance you need. I will get back to you as soon as I can and respond to your requests.
If you are a parent or grandparent with a child in one of our schools, find out how prepared your educational institution of choice is. Last week, Israel sent out a global terror alert for Jews in every country. Our love and concern must motivate action. v