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Monday, April 21, 2014

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London JCC uses federal grant for security upgrade

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London's JCC is 35 years old.

It’s a grant that will create peace of mind for the Jewish community of London, Ont.

With concerns over safety, the London Jewish Federation applied for and received funding as part of the federal Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program (SIP) to upgrade the security system at its Jewish community centre.

The $1-million annual fund, from which the JCC received just over $26,000, is distributed to successful applicants from communities at risk of hate crimes. It’s typically used to help pay for security at schools, places of worship and other institutions.

SIP was initiated in 2008 as a three-year pilot program. The government made it permanent in 2012.

The money can cover alarm systems, gates or fences, lighting, security film for windows, closed-circuit television systems, exterior cameras (as well as their relocation), anti-graffiti sealant, motion detectors, signage and landscaping.

SIP will match, dollar for dollar, any amount under $100,000. London’s JCC funding was matched by an anonymous donor from Toronto, allowing the JCC to install a new $52,000 security system.

“The building is 35 years old and we had an antiquated security system that was beginning to fail,” said Fay Edwards, facility director for London’s JCC. “So we used this as the perfect opportunity to replace that.”

The new system has cameras inside and outside the building, to keep an eye on potential intruders or vandals.

“We’ve had a few issues over the years, so we felt it would be a good way to see who’s around the property 24 hours a day,” Edwards said.

Given the number of people, young and old, who use the JCC, Edwards felt better security was a necessity.

“We always err on the side of caution, because we do have two preschools, a Hebrew day school and 1,200 to 1,500 public school students here for Holocaust education during the year,” said Edwards, who can recall a “few” incidents at the JCC over the past decade.

“We always have a number of young children on the property, as well as seniors, so we just try to do our best to ensure that they’re safe at all times.”

Staff can also check on the status of patrons around the building and make sure they’re not in any trouble.

“Having young children and seniors in the building, it’s nice to be able to look at the monitors and see that no one’s trapped in a door, or that no one has fallen down and needs assistance,” Edwards said.

“It just gives us peace of mind that everybody’s safe.”

Susan Truppe, Tory MP for London-North-Centre, was on hand for the July 9 funding announcement.

“Our government’s mandate in the past and the future is to keep our streets and communities safe, and that’s what we’re doing with this Security Infrastructure Program,” she said, adding that it “it helps ensure that community members… can practise their faith, culture and activities without fear of harm or reprisal.”

Twenty-six Jewish organizations have received SIP funding so far, including Toronto’s Beth Tikvah Synagogue and Hamilton’s Adas Israel congregation earlier this year.

A government spokeseperson could not confirm whether any other Jewish organizations have received grants in this latest round of funding, since not all proposals have been reviewed and approved.

With the upgraded security system in place, Edwards feels her JCC is much safer.

“It makes things much better,” Edwards said. “When things go on here, or something’s slightly amiss, we can go back through just exactly what it was.

“We feel much happier that we can tell when anyone has done anything and who has done it.”

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