SAFE Washington: More Important Than Ever

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
This past week, I saw a list summarizing reported bias incidents and threats that were directed against Jewish institutions in 2019, here in Washington State, around the United States, and including notable incidents from around the world. The sheer length of the summary was sobering – page after page, 260 pages in all.

Seeing that summary was a reminder of the vital importance of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s SAFE Washington community security program. Helping to keep our Jewish organizations safe and secure is fundamental to keeping Jewish life healthy and vibrant. The need for SAFE’s services has become more imperative than ever because of the disturbing increase in antisemitism that is afflicting our society and is the most serious issue facing Jews today.

We are so grateful to our generous donors and legacy supporters who make it possible to provide the many services that SAFE is delivering for Jewish communities in our state. I’d like to highlight for you a few recent examples of SAFE’s important work.

Day in and day out, SAFE manages a robust communications network that alerts the entire community to possible threats to physical security, as well as the ever-evolving threats that lurk in cyberspace. SAFE has demonstrated how it responds in emergencies. As soon as we hear of an antisemitic attack, such as the horrific invasion of a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, this past December, SAFE Director Andrew Chadick immediately gets the word out to our local Jewish organizations, provides actionable security information, and if appropriate, works with law enforcement to increase patrols around Jewish institutions.

In today’s world, preparedness is more critical than ever. SAFE helps Jewish organizations throughout Washington State build cultures of security. One preparedness resource that SAFE provides is training for Jewish organizations on applying for federal Non-Profit Security Grants that pay for security hardening upgrades. For non-profits, especially those with small staffs, the federal grant application process can be challenging. SAFE’s training guides staff and lay leaders through the process and gives their organizations a leg up for securing critical funding for their facilities. FYI – more federal funds for security upgrades are available this year. Thanks to effective Federation advocacy that your support makes possible, a 50 percent increase in the national security grant appropriation was enacted into law for 2020.

Another example of SAFE’s preparedness services is security walk-throughs. SAFE coordinates and participates with law enforcement during visits to Jewish organizations to point out ways they can improve their security. This past week alone, we have gone on a series of site visits to help organizations prepare their Non-Profit Security Grant applications.

By itself, the practical information that organizations receive on these walk-throughs is invaluable. An essential intangible benefit is stronger collaborative working relationships with law enforcement. Those relationships help law enforcement to better understand an organization’s security needs and help communal leaders build habits of situational awareness, learn the in’s and out’s of reporting suspicious behavior, and develop—and practice—protocols for effective emergency response.

Helping the Jewish institutions that we attend to be as safe and secure as they can be while still being open and welcoming is fundamental for fostering a Jewish community where everyone can find a way to live Jewishly in whatever ways call to them. Ensuring Jewish continuity is what we do at your Federation, and SAFE Washington is one way we do it, thanks to your generosity.