Texas Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker (pictured) credits security training with helping him and three congregants escape from the gunman who took the four hostage during livestreamed Shabbat services Jan. 15. The hostage taker died in a gunfight with the FBI after the hostages escaped.
“Over the years, my congregation and I have participated in multiple security courses from the Colleyville Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League and Secure Community Network,” Rabbi Cytron-Walker told the Star Telegram in an emailed statement. “We are alive today because of that education. I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools, and others to participate in active-shooter and security courses.”
Locally that training is provided through SCN Regional Security Director Gene Moss. Organizations and individuals can sign up for training classes and report suspicious incidents at jewishportland.org/security. Classes include Situational Awareness, Counter-Active Threat, Stop The Bleed and Usher/Greeter Training.
Additionally, Moss will soon offer the new SCN Class “BeAware,” an interactive training course that can be delivered either online or in-person. BeAware is available to all members of the Jewish community; no background in security is required. The course is designed to improve the ability of members of the Jewish community to recognize and react to dangerous situations in their everyday lives – from going to synagogue and dropping off children off at school, to going to the gas station or an ATM.
Since he began his SCN role in Portland in May 2019, Moss also has conducted numerous risk and vulnerability assessments, which can be leveraged to apply for nonprofit security grant funding in support of increasing the security posture of a local organization.
Founded in 2004, SCN is a nonprofit that serves as the central organization dedicated to the safety and security of the American Jewish community. It works with 146 federations, 50 partner organizations and more than 300 independent communities.
Locally the SCN director is funded by a four-way partnership – Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Oregon Jewish Community Foundation, multiple local Jewish organizations and SCN. Moss recently accepted the SCN role to serve as Regional Security Director for the entire Pacific Northwest, including Portland. SCN and JFGP also will hire a new local security director soon.
“With the incredible financial support of our partners to hire a local security director our community is better positioned and prepared to respond to horrific instances like this,” says JFGP President and CEO Marc Blattner.
Following the Texas incident, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released the following statement: “We are relieved by the resolution of the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel and are immensely grateful for the courage of local and state law enforcement, and the FBI, who acted quickly and effectively to rescue the rabbi and all of the worshippers inside the synagogue. We are also indebted to our partners at the Secure Community Network, whose mission is to guarantee every congregation the right to worship freely and safely by providing security resources and training. Congregation Beth Israel received this training from SCN only several months prior, which likely helped to make them better prepared for this tragic incident.”