Rabbi Stiefel's Monthly Article

Current July/August 2024

Rabbi Sharon Stiefel


On Safety


Recently a colleague in a different state, went to a nearby church for the monthly gathering of local clergy. The meeting was held at a church he had not been to before.  He went to what he thought was the main entrance, but there was no doorbell.  There was a sign with instructions to go to the other door for the office, so he walked around to the back of the building. Entering through an open door, he passed by an unsecured childcare space, and walked to the other side of the door that he had originally encountered. 


The pastor of the church met him there and they chatted. My colleague mentioned to the pastor that he’d been puzzled about how to enter the building. The pastor responded, "Oh, it's just that door right there," 


My colleague replied, "Oh, I couldn't find the doorbell." 


The pastor looked at him confused, and said, "It's open, all you have to do is turn the knob."


My colleague was literally floored, unable to speak for a moment. He simply couldn't conceive of not locking the door to his synagogue. It left him a little teary, trying to imagine what it would be like to have our synagogues open again, rather than secured like the mini fortresses we now publicly present. 


At a recent training session on security, offered by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) I learned that it is safe to attend services at our synagogues but we do need security. That means we need to keep our doors locked, unless someone is there when people are entering.


Even with volunteer greeters, all congregants are responsible for keeping a synagogue safe. Situational awareness means that everyone uses their eyes and ears to observe what is going on around them. It’s the responsibility of each one of us to speak out if we see something out of the ordinary. The JCRC made it clear that every individual in attendance must be part of the security system.


To become even more skilled in awareness, I invite you to join me at a JCRC security training session on Encountering Challenging People, taking place in the East Metro on Sunday, July 21, from 1 pm to 5 pm. The session will include learning de-escalation skills. Professional actors will act as people undergoing some sort of crisis and participants will learn how best to respond. Small groups will be led by professional coaches and characteristics of the challenges folks may face in greeting people at synagogues will be covered. Registration is required and space is limited. Reserve your spot here.


At Mayim Rabim we are fortunate to have Scott Fillman and Pat Levine leading our security committee. Please contact Scott or Pat to volunteer to greet people at the door during services and other events. 


May the time come soon when we are able to unlock the doors of our synagogues without worrying about who might enter them. Until then, all of us are responsible for keeping Mayim Rabim safe.