Kesser fence a timely, tasteful addition

PHOTO: From left, Congregation Kesser Israel Director of Security Aki Fleshler, President Charles Elder, Rabbi Sholom Skolnik and Community Security Director Jessica Anderson show off the synagogue's new perimeter security fence Thursday, Dec. 21. (Courtesy Congregation Kesser Israel)

The Jewish Review
Those passing by Congregation Kesser Israel will likely notice a new addition to the property, but the idea for this addition is not new at all. 
The congregation completed the installation of a seven-foot wrought iron fence around the perimeter of the synagogue’s property on Southwest Capitol Highway – a installation called for in the security plan drawn up  a dozen years ago during a spate of antisemitic incidents but brought over the finish line in part due to the recent rise in similar incidents. 
Aki Fleshler, the shul’s Director of Security, explained that the combination of concerns about targeted acts against the synagogue’s property combined with less insidious but still dangerous threats like theft, vagrancy and drug use, securing the property’s perimeter has been a high priority of his work. 
“Given our location is quite physically vulnerable, with no control of our property boundary, no way to keep people back at a distance from us,” Fleshler said, “a fence was considered as essential as part of a long-term plan for safety and security.”
Essential projects still have to be funded; Kesser Israel worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program to fund a number of security enhancements to the building, including enhanced emergency exits and ballistic film for the windows. Fleshler and Kesser Israel also worked extensively with Jeffrey Weitz, the project advisor, as well as Jessica Anderson and Gene Moss of Secure Community Network, as well as the Oregon Department of Justice, the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Portland Police Bureau, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. 
Fleshler explains that the fence’s height – fractionally over seven feet – is tall enough to provide security but short enough to avoid a complicated, drawn-out permitting process that would have been required for a taller fence. The fence wraps around the entirety of the property with gates for pedestrian access and emergency exits as well as a rolling gate to cordon off the parking lot. Fleshler has received nothing but compliments on both the fence’s appearance and its presence.
“It blends right into the aesthetic of the synagogue,” Fleshler said. “It looks really tidy.”
Fleshler expressed thanks to Anderson, Moss, the government agencies the congregation worked with, the legislators who authorized the grant programs and the synagogue itself. 
“We didn’t really have to dip into our own capital budget to put this together, which made it an easy sell internally,” he said. “Everybody said. ‘Yeah, it’s about time,’ whereas a year ago, there might have been some questions: ‘Why do we need a fence?’ or ‘Why does it have to be this fence now?’ Everybody’s saying, ‘thank you.’”


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