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August 2, 2013

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PAGE 10B HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 2, 2013 Security expert compiles new school safety guide 'for the love of the Jewish people' Bbjeter via Wikimedia Commons The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting makeshift memorial on Berkshire Road in Newtown, Conn., 12 days after the December 2012 shooting. The shooting inspired Frank Storch's to create the new school safety guide, Keep Your School Safe," a project he says he undertook "purely for the love of the Jewish people." it took hundreds of hours to write the 44-page "Keep Your School Safe," which includes checklists of safety and secu- rity protocols that ask school officials to score their facilities on a wide variety of secu- rity concerns. For example, the guide asks if lockdown procedures are in place in every classroom, whether all interior and exterir doors are designed to close auto- matically and securely and if teachers are required to carry two-way radios when they've taken children outdoors. The book also includes a "Bomb Threat Response Checklist"--with suggested questions to ask the call- er, such as "Where is the bomb?" and"What does it look like?"--and urges the school to distribute a questionnaire to all staff members to assess By Debra Rubin Itwas the day after 26 peo- ple-20 of them children-- were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. An expert in se- curity, Frank Storch, decided he had to take action. Storch began drafting a booklet aimed at keeping schools safe. He estimates that how they view the school's safety procedures. In addition, it provLdes a list of websites for resources such as the Department of Homeland Security and Community Security Service. Earlier this year, Storch-- through the Baltimore- based- nonprofits Project Ezra, which he founded, and the Chesed Fund, which he created with his wife, Danielle.Sarah--distributed 9,000 booklets to Jewish day schools, synagogue schools and community centers nationally. An additional 1,000 booklets were mai!ed to Jewish camps. He esti- mates the cost at $60;000 to $70,000. The booklet also is a)ailable online at http:// keepyourschoolsafe/images/ ReportFINAL_4.25sm.pdf. Storch says he made the booklet "just purely for the love of the Jewish people." "We have to protect the community," he says. Storch also undertook the project so that school officials could have something simple to follow with numerous mea- sures that are not costly. For example, it provides a sheet to be completed with emer- gency contact information ranging from the local police department to the alarm and security company. "The goal is to make people aware of areas they can work on and improve'on them," he says. "We're giving them the easy" tools for people to look at and be able to grade themselves." The Anti-Defamation League, which distributes its own safety guidelines, praised the booklet. "We think it's a useful resource and a welcome complement to our materials," says Elise Jarvis, the ADL's associate director of law enforcement outreach and communal security. Storch, a security consul- tant and coordinator for the Northern Park Heights Com- munity Emergency Response Team in Baltimore, sought guidance from members of law enforcement agencies and SWAT teams, as well as U.S. and Israeli security and school professionals. "They gave us a little bit of feedback," he says. In a statement, the Jew- ish Federations of North America's Secure Community Network, which consultswith the Department of Homeland Security, calls the booklet "yet another excellent tool to equip our community leaders and those of you whom are respon- sible for securing our children, with the knowledge to better understand the risks, threats and vuinerabilities we all face and be empowered, to effect change, and to implement a true culture of security within our schools and institutions." Cheryl Hersh, head of school at the Austin Jewish Academy (AJA) in Texas, says her initial reaction to "Keep Your School Safe" was relief that she's not in charge of security, since AJA is part of a larger complex of Jewish organizations with a security team in place. Hersh is also impressed with how user-friendly the booklet is. "A lot of our crisis management stuff is not in a format that's accessible," Hersh says. This book "is a great reference" and useful tool for continued review for teachers and staff, she says. Storch is making rriinor re- visions to the guide, published in memory of both the Sandy Hook victims and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, so that it can be sent to public and non-Jewish private school. "We want to make everyone aware there are things you can do and improve on without having to hire a company and spend a lot of money they don't have," he says. College care packageS help synagogues stay in touch with students By Debra Rubin What do hamantaschen, a Starbucks gift card and a pharaoh punching bag have in common? They're all goodies that Jewish college students may find in care packages sent by their hometown synagogues. Synagogues across denomi- nations keep in touch with college students in a variety of ways, from sending holiday food packages and putting the. students on the newsletter mailing list, to inviting them to participate on Facebook pages and having the rabbi visit campus to take them out for dinner. The Uniofi for Reform Juda- ism, the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, and the Orthodox Union all encourage such connections, with many synagogues requir- ing only that parents supply a campus address but others charging parents a fee. At the Greenburgh Hebrew Center in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., students receive care packages for Rosh Hashanah, Hanuk- kah, Purim and Passover. The packages typically consist of kosher holiday-related foods, but freshman can also expect an electric menorah for Ha- nukkah, while older students might get a mug or glass dreidel. Plus, they'll get the occasional email from their rabbi, as well as information about Birthright Israel, the program that sends young adults 18-26 t9 Israel at no cost. "I get wonderful, wonderful little thank you notes," says Naomi Feinkind, who has chaired Greenburgh's Koach outreach program for the past decade. "I get kids that are in their late 20s who say, 'I still have that menorah,'" she says. Feinkind recounts the time a student told her that he and his roommate, who was also Jewish, had been thinking about getting a Christmas ree their freshman year-- until the Hanukkah package showed up. "They scuttled the tree," she says. At Adat Shalom in Farm- ington, Mich., Jodi Gross has been working on college outreach since 2006. "When students go away to college, I think they're in that part of their lives where they're looking for something," she says. "It's important that they know that the rabbi, the can- tor and myself, as education director, are there for them if they need help." Adat Shalom students receive a Starbucks gift card for Hanukkah, along with a letter from the rabbi or can- tor, and a food package for , Passover. "We send the junk food," she says, "usually the kinds of things that you can't find near campus," along with information on how to make a kitchen kosher for Passover. She also maintains a Face= book page geared to the students and.invites students coming home for the High Holy Days to help lead youth services so that they remain connected to the synagogue. And, with 80-90 percent of Adat's students attending schools in state, one of the clergy tries to 9isit each cam- pus at least once a semester. Josh Maroff, who's entering his second year at Michigan State University, doesn't think the Facebook page is much o help. "It's not like a conversa 2 tionai page," he says. Overall, he calls the outreach, particu- larly the campus visit, "a nice way to remind you there are people at home who care about you, to remind you about th importance of Judaism." His freshman year he was one of about 15 students-- half from his classto attend a dinner with Rabbi Aaron Bergman. It was really nice, Maroff, 18, says, "to have the Jewish conversations we had in Hebrew school that we hadn't had in a while." For his part, Bergman says, "I'm just there to hang out." "Let's have some food to- gether and hang--just to see what's on their mind and what they're thinking, who looks happy and who looks not so happy," he says. Staying in touch is part of maintaining continuity, of- ficials say. "Hopefully they'll remember us in the future or remember that a synagogue cared about them," Berman says. "I just want them to have agood thought about the Jewish community." When Ari Paskoff joined Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Va., as youth direc-' tor a couple of yeai's ago, he thought that gifts such as an Egyptian pharaoh punching bag or matzah-decorated juggling balls might be a little cheesy. But he found that stu- dents get a kick out of them. Plus, he says, the holiday packages, which also typi- cally included holiday-related foods, make an impact on the congregation's younger students. "When I'm packing the stuff, the youth groups I work with will see what we're doing and say, 'I can't wait till I get that in college,'" Paskoff says. Israeli teacher and his robot help students with attention difficulties ByAbigailKleinLeichman Contest and RoboWaiter ISRAEL21c Competition. "Our goal is to create a ro- It takes a lot of patience and botics curriculum for middle- dedication to teach math and schoolchildrenusingthiskit," physics to teenswithattention "Podolsky tells ISRAEL21c. deficit disorder. Igor Podolsky, a 30-year-old Israeli who re- cently won an international robotics Olympiad in Con- necticut, is blessed with the right traits to do his job well. And he thinks robots may just help him do it better. Working with profes- sor Igor Verner from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; where he is His robot, Eddy, walked home with a first-place award from the humanoid division of the RoboWaiter contest for so- phisticated machines designed to help peoplewith disabilities. Podolsky earned his own top prize for his performance atthe Robotics Knowledge Olympiad portion of the meet, which at- tracts 125 teams from around the world. earning a second bachelor's Under Verner's guidance, a degree in science education, Technion grouplastyear won Podolsky tested out a robot- firstplacewithitsRoboWaiter making kit from the Korean humanoid, which teammem- company Robotisas his entry bers demonstrated for U.S. in the 2013 Trinity College PresidentBarackObamadur- Fire Fighting Home Robot ing his recent visit to Israel. "Other Israel is did very well in this year's competition, too," stresses Podolsky. An Israeli robotics team from Ramat Gan won a second- place award, and a team from a high school in Misgav took third place in its division as well as the overall grand prize for its robot, project poster and performance in the Olympiad. "They didn't even have their teachers there to help them, as many other teams did," notes Podolsky, like the proud educator he is. "I saw a great spirit of sportsmanship." Podolsky moved to Israel with hisparents from Rus- sia at age 7. He grew up in the northern border town of Ma'alot, graduating with honors from the electronics and computers track at the local high school. This achievement qualified him for Atuda, a military aca- demic program that allowed him to earn his mechanical engineering degree from the Technion prior to active service. He was an officer in the Land Corps' Experiments Unit, responsible for studying the efficacy of every piece of new equipment before use in the field. During his army years, he volunteered to teach math- ematics, physics and English at a Ramle high school. His English is virtually unac- cented, having had a language tutor from an early age, and honing his speaking'skills with friends. Unlike many freshly dis- charged soldiers, Podolsky did not throw a knapsack on his back and go trekking in South America. Rather, he returned to the Technion for the Mabatim (Views) Program to earn certification in science education while at the same time teaching at a private high school for kids with learning disabilities. As a Technion graduate, Podolsky gets free tuition for four of the five. semesters, but most importantly he'll earn the credentials to see how teaching robotics might enhance the education of his students "Somewhere in the back of mind I always thought of teaching, and the degree I'm doing came up and it all fit together," he explains "I teach math, and next year, hopefully, robotics as well. I hope to connect those two. My professor [Verner] wants me to go on to graduate studies, to investigate if using robots can help alleviate attention and concentration difficulties." Living in Petah Tikvah north of Tel Aviv, Podolsky has chosen to work in a field that is neither lucrative nor easy. Yet he calls his teaching career "pure pleasure." "It's a challenge that is not for everyone," he concedes. "You need a lot of patience. Even my pupils sometimes ask me where I get the patience for them. Yesterday, we were working hard preparing for the bagrut [matriculation exam], and one kid got really frustrated and said he's going home. I kept repeating, 'You can do it.' Later that evening, he thanked me for convincing him to stay. These are the things we live for."