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After anti-Semitic attacks in NY and NJ, York Jewish Community Center to increase security

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Out of an abundance of caution in light of recent anti-Semitic attacks in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the United States, the York Jewish Community Center plans to beef up security at its York Township facilities.

The York JCC has not received any threats, said CEO Dani Fessler, but that doesn't mean the organization shouldn't be proactive in protecting itself.

Visitors occupy the entryway at the Jewish Community Center Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The center is applying for grants to secure the area. Bill Kalina photo

"Even small towns and suburban areas can be subject to attack, and you can never predict where (or) when it will come and surprise you," Fessler said.

The York JCC will add two major security upgrades by the end of this summer. Fessler said the estimated cost will be $300,000.

The community center is easily accessible to the public through the main entrance, Fessler said, which is in line with the center's mission of being open and welcoming to all people.

The desk is on the left side of the lobby after walking through the main entrance, and there's nothing to stop someone from easily passing through the lobby and accessing classrooms and other facilities, Fessler said.

That openness could be a vulnerability if someone wished to enter the community center to harm the people inside.

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The first major upgrade at the center will be to move the front desk closer to the doors so it's easier to monitor who's coming and going, Fessler said. The center also will require everyone who enters to identify themselves and register with the front desk.

The second upgrade will be the installation of a security camera system to monitor the outside of the center and alert the staff to any suspicious people or movements.

To help fund the security upgrades, the York JCC will apply for a $150,000 grant through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's Nonprofit Security Grant Program, Fessler said.

The JCC has already been awarded $91,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Nonprofit Security Grant Program, he said.

These  security upgrades at the community center are in addition to the concrete pillars added outside the front entrance about a year ago as a precaution against a car attack, Fessler said.

Ruth Fronczak of Dallastown, left, is helped by Jewish Community Center associate Charlene Peters at the reception desk Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. Fronczak recently became a member there. The center is applying for grants to secure the entryway to the facility. Bill Kalina photo

Fessler said the York JCC will do whatever is necessary to secure its facilities while also living out its values of welcoming all people and being open to the community.

About 91% of the people who use the community center on a daily basis are not Jewish, he said.

"We should never surrender to any kind of threats or attacks to change our life," Fessler said. "So, we need to be strong, and the thing that we need to do is prepare."

Major attacks on synagogues and in Jewish neighborhoods across the country in recent months have put the nation's Jewish communities on high alert.

A visitor exits the Jewish Community Center Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The center is applying for grants to secure the entryway to the facility. Bill Kalina photo

CBS News has reported there were at least 13 anti-Semitic attacks in New York City between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2.

On Dec. 28, a man broke into a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, during a Hanukkah service and began stabbing those who were gathered there. Five people were injured.

And on Dec. 10, two shooters targeted a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, and killed four people, including a police officer.

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