In testimony this summer before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, called on Congress to provide significantly increased funding for security resources to help protect the Jewish community.
Last week, at the opening of the organization’s online General Assembly, Fingerhut demonstrated that JFNA is putting its money where its mouth is with the announcement of an ambitious campaign to raise $54 million in three years for LiveSecure, JFNA’s safety and security initiative.
LiveSecure’s goal is to equip all 146 Jewish federations in North America through the organization’s Community Security Initiative, described as “a single point of contact for critical incident coordination, information and intelligence sharing, safety and security training, and resources for every Jewish institution in a community.”
CSI is already a part of 45 federations. If JFNA can raise the millions projected in the next three years, it will more than triple the number of communities with comprehensive community security initiatives. And with the infusion of additional dollars, the program will expand significantly efforts to help each community upgrade its defenses and ability to address emerging threats.
JFNA’s LiveSecure program reflects a recognition that rising antisemitism in America is a serious threat, and that community security is essential. Jews need to be free to go to services without being harassed. Jewish children need to be able to go to school without catcalls and rocks and bottles thrown at them.
It has become clear that the ongoing threat and painful reality of antisemitism get in the way of the work federations and other Jewish organizations are doing. Put another way, the Jewish world cannot function under a cloud of antisemitic threats. A proactive response is necessary. The large sums of money being raised will mean that local security efforts will be funded in a regular and ongoing manner rather than as a reaction to an emergency event or a terrible tragedy.
And the unprecedented sum to be raised — which includes grants to match and encourage local fundraising efforts — also puts the Jewish community in a strong position to lobby local and state governments to increase their commitments to secure individual Jews and their institutions. Last week, during an event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $25 million in grants to boost security at nonprofits threatened by hate crimes. Similar grants are being pursued nationwide.
The LiveSecure initiative also illustrates a shift in Jewish communal culture and fundraising. Going forward, the list of needs that Jewish federations will be raising funds for — Israel, the elderly, social services, Jewish education and a host of others — will include security as part of the fundraising “ask.” As the LiveSecure Growth Plan puts it, the effort will “grow a culture of giving to security to maintain long-term support in our communities.”
We welcome the LiveSecure program and look forward to its success.