The recent upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents in the Valley and across the nation has sharpened the focus on plans to fund and implement new security procedures at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus.
“We have been evaluating our security pretty strongly over the past six months, even before the bomb threats and the other most visible anti-Semitic acts that have occurred in the Valley,” said Bob Silver, a former board chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, who is leading the Campus Security Campaign to raise the money needed for the security upgrades. “It’s important to remember that the campus itself was designed pre-9/11. If we were building that building today or even 10 years ago, it would be an incredibly different building. So, of course there are things we need to do to bring it up to the level of security today’s environment requires.”
Opened to the public in 2002, the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus is home to several Jewish community organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center and Pardes Jewish Day School.
In December, campus staff and lay leaders met with members of the Scottsdale Police Department and two consultants with Secure Community Network (SCN) to assess the security situation. SCN is a nonprofit organization created in 2004 by the Jewish Federations of North America to disseminate Homeland Security initiatives and provide security consultation to a variety of Jewish organizations.
Scottsdale Police and SCN recommended adding hours for off-duty Scottsdale Police officers, enhancing their areas of focus, improving radio communication between campus organizations and adding training to streamline and coordinate emergency responses. Material changes to the campus would include physical barriers to prevent unauthorized vehicular access to some areas, upgrading certain walls around the campus grounds and enhancing electronic door access controls.
“One of the most important things that came out of those discussions was that SCN impressed upon us that for a campus of this size and a community of this size, you really need a director of security to coordinate and provide that focus and level of detail,” Silver said.
In response to that recommendation, the campus has hired retired Scottsdale Police Department Lt. Jimmy Wasson as director of security.
“He’s really organizing our security efforts on the campus and coordinating with Pardes and all of the organizations in the building,” Silver said. “Our goal is that as soon as we’re at a stage where the bulk of the work is done at the campus, we want to make him a resource to other Jewish organizations in town to provide that very professional security consultation.”
This planned level of security upgrades comes at a price. Silver estimated the campaign needs to raise $500,000 to fund the endeavor.
“Sadly, these situations require money to solve and fix and improve things,” Silver said. “We’re really looking to the community to help us in that aspect.”
People interested in giving to the Campus Security Campaign can make out checks to the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus and send them to Pardes Jewish Day School or the Valley of the Sun JCC. Donations are also being accepted online at jewishphoenix.org/securityfund. Donations of more than $1,000 may be paid over a year. All donations are tax deductible.
Silver stressed that the campus is determined to find the right balance between security and accessibility.
“We still have an obligation to be open and welcoming,” he said. “We want to be secure but we don’t want to lose that warm, welcoming feeling that the building has always had.”