by Neal Rentz –
The Shames Jewish Community Center (JCC) on the Hudson in Tarrytown has undergone a major renovation and is becoming increasingly popular with a substantially growing membership now at 5,000.
The increasing popularity of the JCC means there are more people to protect.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey and State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins visited the JCC on October 14 to discuss the $150,000 in grants they each helped to provide to the Center for security enhancement programs and how the federal and state governments are working to protect non-profit agencies
“We have always been a place that took many things seriously,” said Rabbi Andrew Ergas, executive director of the Shames JCC on the Hudson. “This is a place that takes everyone’s safety and security very, very seriously.”
“Our profile is higher than it has been in the past,” Ergas said, adding that Shames has become one of the largest JCCs in the New York area. “That means more people can see us. And so, we’ve also had to up our game in terms of insuring a high level of safety and security.”
Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the State Senate Democratic Conference, said the state Senate, Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo understood the increasing need for security for facilities such as the Shames JCC. “There has been such a tremendous uptick in a lot of hate crime activities and certainly in anti-Semitic activity” in the New York area, Stewart-Cousins said.
“Security is clearly a need in this environment,” Stewart-Cousins added.
Ergas thanked Lowey for helping to secure a $150,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security for the JCC.
Lowey said there is a need to be vigilant in preventing acts of violence, particularly in the New York area. “As New Yorkers, we know that threats of terrorism and hate are real,” she said.
“Our communities must have the resources to protect our families and neighbors from hate and violence,” Lowey said.
Evan Pressman, chair of the Shames JCC Security Task Force, said the Center has taken several steps to enhance security at the facility based on the committee’s recommendations. Many of the members of the volunteer task force, formed in 2017, have extensive backgrounds in security and law enforcement, Pressman said.
Security “is an ongoing process,” Pressman said. “Because the nature of threats change, responses have to adapt and technology evolves.”
The JCC has hired the security company, Global Operations, to help create a security plan, Pressman said.
Some of the security measures already taken at the JCC include the construction of barriers at the entrance to prevent a vehicle to be driven intentionally or accidently to hit the building; the hardening of all interior doors; access controls were installed at all three entrances; security training has been provided for employees, and there has been an enhancement of the relationship between the JCC and the Tarrytown Police Department, Pressman said.