2017-03-15 / Columns

Inspiring words of support have helped us get through a difficult time

FRONT & CENTER
LES COHEN
Katz JCC Executive Director

We’ve all had a tough few weeks. While others JCCs were receiving threatening phone calls, we were spared. We practiced our drills and conferred with law enforcement just in case we were to get the call.

And then it came. The staff was outstanding. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. All of the children and other members were evacuated safely and returned to the building after the all-clear.

It was quite an experience, with everyone rising to the moment. Staff came running to help with the babies. Swimmers were escorted out in their bathing suits. People from all agencies helped each other.

Volunteers and staff drove home people who had left their car keys in their lockers. The children spoke excitedly about their adventure and the video they watched. And our neighbors came through offering a safe place to hunker down and wait.

Over 100 calls and emails have been received. They all seem to resemble each other but there is no conclusive proof that they are from the same person or persons. The FBI, Homeland Security and local law enforcement around the country are all committed to finding the perpetrators but as of the time this was written they have been unable to do so.

We are very grateful that we have such a close and trusting relationship with our partners in law enforcement. We speak to one or more practically daily for updates and information. Since the evacuation, in consultation with them, we have increased our security procedures and protocols.

Although I can’t share all of the changes and precautions we have put into place, I can tell you about some of the improvements.

We have ordered a fence around the early childhood classrooms on the north road side. In addition, we have privacy screens coming for all fences around ECE. Additional bollards able to stop a car will be installed and additional surveillance cameras have been ordered. The biggest change is with our guards.

There is now a guard at the ECE entrance during the peak hours in addition to the front entrance.

We have increased the standards of the personnel and currently have an armed guard in the building during varied hours. Any plans we make are subject to change as the conditions around us change.

We are continuously striving to improve the safety and security for all of our members and children.

Just as we were feeling a little dispirited by all of this, there was a rally on our corner. It was non- denominational, interfaith, non-political and very heartening. These people came out to promote a message of Love and Peace. “Stop the hate” was the general theme. We witnessed a very diverse crowd of strangers become one community for the good of all. It may have been in response to the JCC bomb threats, but it was a powerful message for all people. They held up signs and passing cars honked their horns in support. And for that moment, we were all part of a better world.

And then the letters of support started coming in. I was already moved by the show of community support as people left messages and sent notes recognizing the staff for the excellent job they did with the evacuation and thanking us for remaining strong and focused.

These letters were from strangers.

They were from around the country from people I did not know. They heard about what was happening and were sending messages of hope and love.

They came from Oregon and Vermont and Ohio and Wyoming.

These messages of support and encouragement are so important and valuable to us. They tell us we are not alone.

We are all in this together. You can help by supporting our efforts to strengthen our security and by reporting anything that doesn’t look right.

Thank you for your support.

Be well and I’ll see you around the JCC. s lcohen@jfedsnj.org

Return to top