The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh is making a significant investment to improve security at all of its locations.
The non-profit’s board recently approved the $1.45 million effort which builds on work the JCC has been doing for years. President and CEO Brian Schreiber said after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October, the organization decided to expedite its existing multi-year security plan, and expand it. That plan had been created in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security and other entities, which the organization has been working with for about 15 years.
Schreiber said in the next three to 12 months, the funds will largely go towards access control, like adding turnstiles and making sure guests are greeted and properly checked in. They will also expand communication and surveillance systems, and provide ongoing training.
“But we always want a balance between what a community center’s all about, which is an opening and welcoming environment for people, with protecting, monitoring, assisting and potentially deterring issues,” said Schreiber.
Schreiber said the organization also aims to increase security personnel this year. In additional to physical improvements, Schreiber said he hopes to build a proactive culture of awareness, and encourage members and staff that if they “see something, say something.”
While security efforts have been ongoing for years at the JCC, Schreiber said it was important to reaffirm the organization’s commitment to safety and security, and to show the community that it’s something the center takes seriously. Yet despite the Tree of Life shooting, he said he doesn’t believe the JCC faces a specific threat.
“It’s hard for me to assess our risk relative to other institutions,” said Schreiber. “We tried to put this in the perspective that this could happen anywhere at any time … I do not feel frightened or afraid to be here or to bring my children here, but we always have to be mindful and we always have to be elevating both that discussion and our actions.”
The Jewish Community Center operates five buildings, located in Squirrel Hill, the South Hills, Monroeville and Morgantown, W. Va., which serve more than 32,000 people each year.