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Jewish schools, institutions join security conference call

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A conference call on school safety organized by the security arm of two national Jewish umbrellas drew more than 800 participants.

The call Thursday was organized by the Secure Community Network, which is affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Paul Goldenberg, SCN’s director, said the call — initiated in the aftermath of the massacre last month at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — featured speakers including top officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and drew participants from Jewish schools, synagogues, summer camps and Jewish community centers, among others.

The participants were urged to run simulation exercises, noting that a number of them were available from SCN.

Following the presentation, a number of participants posed questions about the wisdom and efficacy of posting armed guards at schools.

Goldenberg said such specifics were best left up to individual institutions, but noted that it was critical for institutions to strike a balance between security and openness.

"Educational institutions must be safe havens for children," he said, "but if a school is not welcoming, children will respond negatively."

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