Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas iStock

Responding to increased antisemitism in Houston, Texas and around the United States, the Houston area’s 80 Jewish organizations are hiring a security direction, KTRK reported.

In the aftermath of the Colleyville, Texas hostage incident, the Houston Jewish community announced at a press conference that the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston will be adding a security director to oversee security for community organizations.

Federation CEO Renee Wizig-Barrios said that the new position will be funded by an anonymous donor for the next three years.

The security director will advise on security matters, act as a liaison and conduct security training.

They will also coordinate with synagogue, Jewish schools and other institutions as well as with law enforcement to conduct assessments.

The position will entail a new comprehensive approach to community security, Wizig-Barrios said.

"The alternative is to have every individual organization making its own standards and hiring its own professionals. With this, we've got a single point from which intelligence and guidance can be disseminated from our federal and local law enforcement agencies," Rabbi Oren Hayon of Congregation Emanu El said. "They can make sure we are all united in what we need to do, using the best practices that are up-to-date."

With the cost of security for individual synagogues a challenge, the new initiative will enable a community wide response.

Noting that in 2021, the Department of Homeland Security gave $1 million to eight Houston Jewish organizations, Wizig-Barrios said that the application process to obtain grants is often extremely challenging. But the new security director will work with synagogues guiding them through the process.

"I am encouraged and gratified by the fact that we are taking this step in Houston,” Rabbi Hayon said. “This is really an important and probably overdue step for us, since other cities with sizable Jewish communities have already implemented this role. It gives me greater peace of mind, just like knowing that we've got fire extinguishers, stripes in our parking lot, and crosswalks for people to cross the street safely."