As summer vacation came to an end, teachers returned to school before the students so they could attend in-service training on a plethora of topics covering everything from introducing new faculty team members, learning new curriculum and operational procedures, as well as CPR certification.
Recently, the two local Chabad schools Bais Chaya Mushka & Cheder Menachem, received an additional, sobering safety class on Terrorism, Suspicious Activity and Active Shooter Awareness. For Israelis, this terror element has been a daily reality through their history. Until recently, we’ve been more fortunate here in the U.S. Yet, the threat is evolving and we are left to ponder the painful questions: What if I were there? What should/ shouldn’t I do? Unfortunately, ever since 9/11 the threat of terrorism in the U.S. is very real. Not a day goes by where we don’t hear or read about an act of terror which has recently included a mass shooting in a cinema, a mall, a house of worship, a courthouse, and even in schools and colleges. The faculty at the Chabad schools were taught how to deal with an attack.
The Jewish community is susceptible to threats from a broad spectrum of fundamentalist groups. The first half of the training was an overview of the history of terrorism, the categories of terrorists, from Domestic, Racial, Animal Rights/ Environmental to Islamic fundamentalism. Some of the more noteworthy and recent attacks on Jewish targets were discussed and analyzed.
Faculty then learned about suspicious activity, what to look out for, local occurrences, and how to report events. The second half of the class covered Active Shooter Survival. The training was for classroom based awareness, not physical hands-on self-defense. It included a wealth of audio-visual aids, including a transcribed audio recording of a teacher in Columbine High School calling 911 during the tragic event in 1996. The teachers listened first hand to the stress that a teacher could face in such a situation, G-d forbid.
This training was given by community activist and school parent Michoel Bloom. The Cheder Menachem session also included an extra hour practicing “lockdown” procedures. The teachers entered a classroom while school security director, Yossi Eilfort, simulated an attacker attempting to enter the classroom. Many lessons were learned from the practice session and these will be implemented in the schools policies.
One teacher said “This was really great training, something everyone should learn…… I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Bloom laid it out in such a way that I could understand, all without scaring us so we don’t lose sleep at night.”
Bloom said the event came about when he was asked by an administrator to assist the school with lock-down and general safety planning. The administration wanted to know how to better secure their facilities and keep their students safest. Bloom’s curriculum comes from his experience working with the LAPD, Federation, and Homeland Security. Bloom holds certificates in a multitude of related courses some of which include: Multi Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools & Houses of Worship, IED/ Bomb Threat Management, Protective Measures, Site Protection, Active Shooter Response.
Bloom emphasized, “While we must always remain vigilant, there is no known credible threat to our community. This doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down, or that some pretty bad people aren’t trying everything in their power to harm us. We are at a greater threat level today than we were on September 10th, 2001. Thanks to the open dialog and partnerships between Federal, State, and Local law enforcement, especially with community partnerships at the grass roots level, we are light years ahead of our pre-9/11 deterrent and intelligence capability.”
Bloom is passionate about the subject and explained the reason for this, “I was personally touched by the hand of terror when my mother’s cousin Shmuel Greenbaum lost his pregnant wife, L.A. native Shoshana (Heyman) in the Sbaro pizza Shop bombing in Jerusalem. A month later the 9/11 attack happened. At the time I was living in NY working on an ambulance, but had come home to L.A. for Rosh Hashana and missed the attack. At first I was upset that I wasn’t there, but in retrospect, G-d had a different plan for me. I have friends who responded to the call and who have nightmares to this day, other friends and colleagues who’ve lost their lives to ailments attributed to the toxic air surrounding Ground Zero.
“When something negative happens, we need to do something positive to wipe away the darkness, this is my personal way of illuminating, by teaching others to protect themselves. If even one tragedy is averted because of something someone learned, than it was well worth my time and effort.”
Bloom’s wish has already come true. After his presentation, one of the teachers approached him with information on some credible suspicious activity that she had observed in the community. Bloom made sure that the proper report was filed with LAPD, and the correct wheels were spinning. Bloom said “This was a very observant woman, who noticed some activity that didn’t feel right. She notified LAPD right away, but wasn’t sure if she was over- reacting or not.” Bloom continued “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The LAPD has a website and hotline called iWatchLA where suspicious behavior can be reported anonymously. The number to call is 1-877-A-THREAT or visit http://www.iWatchLA.org for a wealth of information.
Bloom is available to give this training at Shuls, Schools, and organizations. He can be reached at MichoelBloom@soronc.org. Bloom is a long time Hatzolah member, an elected Neighborhood Councilman where he sits as the Vice-Chair of the Public Safety Committee, a volunteer with the LAPD’s Counter Terrorism & Special Operations Bureau (CTSOB) – Liaison
Section, and works closely with the Jewish Federation Community Security Initiative. Bloom has been exposed to the philosophies and training of LAPD’s Deputy Chief Michael Downing’s Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau. Downing has been a long-time friend of the Jewish community since he was Captain at the Hollywood Police Station where he was one of the first city officials to open their arms to Hatzolah at its inception in the summer of 2001.