I traveled to Columbus yesterday for the Ohio Jewish Communities’ Annual Meeting. If you aren’t familiar with OJC, they represent eight Jewish Federations (including our own), their partners and agencies in Columbus and Washington DC on a range of state, federal and international issues.
It was a wonderful meeting. Howie Beigelman, who is OJC’s executive director, has done a tremendous job of working to fill the shoes of Joyce Garver Keller (z”l), who retired in 2015 after 25 years of impeccable service.
Howie has accomplished so much during his brief time with OJC. One of his greatest endeavors happened to come to fruition around the same time that Jewish organizations throughout the country were being victimized with threatening phone calls and emails.
In January of 2017, many Jewish Federations and JCCs (including several in Ohio) began receiving bomb threats. Thank goodness Dayton did not receive any threats, and after a few months the perpetrator was caught. However, the thought of possibly receiving a threat was disturbing. Many of us wondered ~ were the threats legitimate? What if something were to happen here ~ would we be prepared?
We pride ourselves on making security and safety a top priority. However, there is always room for improvement. And when something frightening happens, it reminds us to stop and evaluate where we are in terms of our safety, and what can be done to make it even better.
Of the cities who appear on a national list of communities where threats are likely to occur, only one Ohio city is listed among the top 10. Dayton doesn’t even show up on the list. We knew that our chances of getting any sort of federal funding to make security upgrades would be slim to none.
So Howie went to work, lobbying for the state of Ohio to provide more funding for security upgrades to houses of worship, nonprofit organizations and nonpublic schools. His efforts have paid off. In three years, the state of Ohio has gone from providing approximately $1 million annually to $10 million annually for security upgrades, including nearly $5 million to over 50 Jewish agencies and institutions.
Through an Ohio Emergency Management Agency grant, organizations are able to apply for assistance to help make their facilities safer and more secure. We were fortunate to receive a grant last year from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. Without this grant, we would not have been able to make the upgrades recommended to us by local law enforcement and Homeland Security.
Because of Howie’s persistence and passion, our organization is now safer than ever. As I sat and listened to Howie speak yesterday, I was quickly reminded of what power can be generated when we all work together for a common good.
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