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Day Schools Beef Up Their Security

August 24, 2006 By:
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Abrams Hebrew Academy
Following the recent shootings at Seattle's Jewish Federation building, a thwarted airline terror plot and an increase in anti-Israel sentiment since the recent war in Lebanon, Jewish day schools across the region have stepped up their security measures to ensure students are safe in school.

Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley is in the process of installing new doors and issuing security cards to its students, parents and faculty. These measures will supplement existing security cameras and a large fence that surrounds the property.

"Our system will be really state-of-the-art," noted head of school Rabbi Ira Budow, who said that the new security measures should be in place by the time Abrams opens for the next academic year on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

The enhancements in security at Abrams started well before the current shift in the worldwide climate, with the school receiving a government grant from money allocated for homeland security after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Budow said the school has spent $200,000 on upgrading security in the last four years.

He added that the Seattle shooting gave school officials a sense of urgency to complete the project.

"When anti-Semitism is reaching a higher peak, we have to be that much more vigilant," admitted Budow. "We can't say it won't happen in Yardley, Pa. It can happen anywhere."

Not the Same World

The three branches of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day school incorporate security measures like locking doors once school starts, employing uniformed security guards, and making visitors and employees display identification tags, according to head of school Jay Leberman.

He noted that Perelman is accredited by the Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools, which set safety standards that help define the educational institution's policies.

"They have high standards of normative security procedures in order to create a safe environment," explained Leberman. "That includes fire drills, evacuation plans, gas leaks."

Akiba Hebrew Academy in Merion plans to add a uniformed security guard at its entrance during the school day -- something that previously only existed during the evening, according to Rabbi Phillip Field, head of school.

"We're living -- sadly -- in an ever-more-dangerous world," he said. "We need to try to do everything we can" to keep kids safe.

A school security committee periodically reviews the school's policies, and Field said that after Sept. 11 -- as with many other institutions, particularly Jewish ones -- security became much more stringent. Akiba now has a computerized security-card system, along with video surveillance.

"With the additional security guard established," said Field, "we are in strongest possible position to secure our kids."

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