The Jewish Federation (JFGI), partner agencies, local Jewish organizations, and Greater Indianapolis synagogues continue to support the Safe Indy Security Initiative, which was launched in Spring 2020. With the rise in antisemitic hate crimes, and the unique security threats posed by COVID-19, leaders within the Indianapolis Jewish community have banded together to take a proactive approach to security.
One of the first steps in founding the initiative was hiring Community Security Director Grant Mendenhall, in partnership with the Secure Community Network (SCN), the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America. SCN, through its network of security professionals working in Federations around the US, and its 24/7 Duty Desk, provides the community with valuable, national-level resources in support of the Safe Indy Initiative’s mission to continuously improve safety and security posture and readiness. Mendenhall previously served in the FBI, most recently as the Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Division.
According to Mendenhall, “security” is a complex, multi-faceted concept that covers diverse threats to our community. He joined JFGI in April, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at an early peak: his holistic approach to security played an integral role in the JFGI’s handling of the pandemic.
Mendenhall’s goals include hardening facilities, training personnel, and helping organizations build plans to guide their response to critical incidents across the spectrum, from weather emergencies to active threat scenarios. In furtherance of these goals, he provides hands-on support to community agencies.
Miriam Gettinger, Hasten Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis (HHAI) Principal, said the physical and emotional safety of staff and students predicates the school’s award-winning education.
“Grant conducted a comprehensive on-site safety review and vulnerability study of our school facility, helping us to identify areas of potential concern and prioritizing our next steps for security upgrades,” she said. “We have since explored lighting, physical limestone barriers along the perimeter to combat vehicular assault and other target hardening suggestions.
Significantly, after a walkthrough with administration, Gettinger says Mendenhall is returning to conduct a two-hour active shooter presentation for the entire staff empowering each staff member to proactively plan for a myriad of emergency scenarios.
A Co-Chair of the HHAI Security Committee, Megan Maurer said she looks forward to the transformation taking place thanks to an increasingly proactive approach to security.
“Our vision for the Indianapolis Jewish community and HHAI is one in which we quickly adopt and implement the most current and recommended security practices and protocols… We need to harden our sites and address vulnerabilities, yet at the same time we need to maintain the welcoming feeling that has always pervaded our communal institutions,” she said.
Shari Lipp-Levine, Executive Director of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, said the synagogue has benefited from the collaborative nature of the initiative.
“By working together with other synagogues, JFGI and their agencies, we have been better able to review, develop and create protocols in this ever-changing landscape,” she said.
The CEO of JCC Indianapolis, Eric H. Koehler, pointed to the initiative’s role in ensuring timely and accurate information-sharing between organizations.
“Sharing knowledge of situations a sister agency is experiencing can help guide and inform our policies and procedures and ensure improved safety. Our security risks are evolving, and our shared experiences can help us remain cognizant of new types of threats,” he said.