These are two words that have especially been on our minds for the past four months. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., was a sudden wakeup call for us all. It reminded us of our vulnerability.
I, for one, have always been a proponent of safety. Over the years, I have been involved in many safety projects through Project Ezra and the Chesed Fund, Ltd. The day of the school tragedy, I began working on a guide called “Keep Your School Safe.” My goal was to make schools safer for our children.
For the first 12 weeks, I spent hundreds of hours researching, compiling and editing the guide to make it as accurate and user-friendly as possible. While some Jewish schools are already implementing safety protocols, there still is much more to be done.
The guide is a one-of-a-kind, 38-page piece that provides clear, concise, concrete and cost-effective [safety] methods that are relatively easy to implement. It includes a workbook section for notes and follow-up questions. The guide will be sent out free of charge to all of the Jewish schools across America. In addition, a website, keepyourschoolsafe.com, will launch May 1. The website will have a free copy of the safety manual for download, and it will also feature safety updates.
“Keep Your School Safe” has been endorsed by prominent national Jewish organizations. It has recommendation letters from a member of SWAT teams and a government security and relations consultant. Those who have read it already have been excited about the need for such a guide and the ease of how it works.
Is your child’s school safe? Does it have guarded entrances? Are the personnel aware what to do in case of an emergency? Has it had a lockdown?
I challenge JT readers to take responsibility for our schools. You may not currently have a child in school, but you can still help. Do you support a local Jewish school? Ask its administration what the school has done to make it safer. Tell them about the guide that will be sent to them shortly, and encourage them to read it and to implement the ideas. Encourage them to visit our website.
My prayer for our community is that we will all do our part to protect ourselves. It might be a small step like placing a buzzer system at the front doors of our schools or gathering important personnel information in one place in the front office or installing video cameras by each entrance. The main thing is that we are working to improve the status quo.
Judaism views life as precious — it is a mitzvah to protect life. And by uniting to improve our schools, we pray that God, the ultimate protector, will bless our efforts from above.
Frank Storch runs the Chesed Fund, Ltd., and is a local philanthropist and freelance writer.