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Homeland Security Advising Religious Groups to Improve Security at Arizona Places Of Worship

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The holiday fun started early for preschoolers at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale, who had a good time Thursday singing their favorite Chanukah songs

“There’s a Hebrew word called “ruach,” it means energy,” said Cantor Seth Ettinger. “A whole part of Chanukah for these kids is about raising “ruach” and igniting the spark of that energy. They love it.”

The pure joy and innocence inside the sanctuary are quite a contrast to the scene outside, where security personnel are in place to keep kids and staff safe.

CBI is one of many religious institutions in Arizona that have increased security since violence erupted in the Middle East. Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin said the locked gates, cameras and other protocols are all part of making everyone feel comfortable.

“I think what’s most important is that people feel safe and secure when they come inside the building,” said Mason-Barkin. “So we do whatever we need to do outside of the building, so that inside we maintain warmth, maintain the welcome and can simply be who we are without fear or worry.”

Just this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security advised all houses of worship to take additional steps to secure their campuses. The report recommends faith groups form a security team, post greeters at entry points to spot potential threats, and create a response plan in case of an incident.

Earlier this year, Arizona lawmakers approved $ 5 million in funding to enhance security at churches, temples and mosques. Religious groups across the state are now eligible for up to $100,000 that can be used for anything from extra cameras to physical changes to how someone can enter a building.

Aubrey Barnwell is pastor of the First New Life Church in Phoenix. He said the money will make a big difference.

“When you go through self assessment, and identify areas that you are vulnerable, we don’t always recognize where we are vulnerable,” said Barnwell. “Our goal is to have a safe place. a place where they can feel comfortable knowing we’ve done what we can to make sure its a safe place and they feel protected.”

Source: Arizona’s Family