Communication and building a culture of security are the keys to safety

Building a culture of security is essential to the safety of the Jewish community in Edmonton, says Gerry Almendrades.

The national director of community security for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs understands what is essential in creating a safe community. Gerry has been in this role since 2019 and prior to this, he was the security advisor for the Toronto Jewish community. 

He was recently in Edmonton to lead the security for the Israel Pavilion at Heritage Festival. The pavilion is the only site in the entire festival where private security is hired. Gerry had a chance to meet with members of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) and Stacey Leavitt-Wright, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton. He lauded Stacey for the relationship she has built with EPS and the quarterly meetings they have.

“What I’ve noticed is how the Federation and Stacey’s leadership can set up a security committee. That’s key because without communication, one cannot act. That’s one of my mantras. Everyone has to express their security concerns. You need to be able to talk about the issues concerning your specific community,” says Gerry.

He recommends that every organization in a Jewish community should have its own security committee and build relationships with the local police. 

“Everybody has a responsibility to be security aware and security is not necessarily related to violence. Common criminality also pertains to security. How do we prevent a simple break-in? Making sure your computer is off at the end of the day to prevent donor lists being stolen. Having first aid training so everyone knows how to take care of a trauma situation. To do all this, you need to have a culture of security,” says Gerry.

Another tip he has is to invite EPS to your organization for refreshments following Shabbat services or another event to help build relationships. Reach out to the police to keep them informed.

“Police will always appreciate information because it benefits you. If something happens, the reaction time will be cut,” says Gerry.