Jewish Federation of Greater Washington Launches New Security Division

JShield Logo. Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced its new, in-house security division called JShield last month, which is already providing valuable resources and training to the local Jewish community.

The new division is headed up by Rusty Rosenthal, a 25-year veteran of the FBI and Anti-Defamation League, who joined the Federation in November 2023 as executive director of community security.

“Our mission is to increase the awareness, preparedness and resiliency of the Greater Washington Jewish community so that everyone can feel free to express their Judaism, however they see fit,” Rosenthal said.

The program offers local Jewish organizations a wide range of security resources, including security grant writing support, security assessments of buildings, security consultations and safety and security training for organizational members.

And the best part is that the services come free of charge to Jewish organizations in the DMV area, as the funding comes from the Federation, thereby removing any cost-associated barriers for organizations looking for these important resources.

“This is a service. And not all of our constituents are aware of that. I can tell when I’m talking to them sometimes that they’re sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. When we’re telling them all the things we can do … and they’re waiting for the cost and you can start to see them light up when I tell them that this is free,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said that the Federation decided to create an in-house security division after looking at similar programs within Jewish communities around the country before he was even hired.

And having him on board enabled the Federation’s program to get off the ground in the months since his hiring, which has been greatly aided by Rosenthal making several key hires to help run the division.

Rosenthal was able to add Shay HaLevi, a former IDF soldier and Israeli national police officer, as the deputy director, Laura Katzif, director of security for the Pozez JCC, as the community security advisor, and Dr. Adam Bronstone, a Jewish communal security veteran, as the grant specialist.

Rosenthal added that he’s excited over two new additional roles that they’re looking to fill – a security department associate to help organize and prioritize the growing demand for JShield’s services, and an intelligence analyst to connect with national groups and add a new layer of information on the local community.

“They’ll be hyper-focused on trends, threats and issues addressing our region and our community specifically,” Rosenthal said.

A large portion of the program’s success will hinge on the trust that they’re able to establish with the community, something that Rosenthal and his team are working on cultivating, using experiences shared with them by programs in other parts of the
United States.

“I’m constantly on the phone, we’re sharing best practices and addressing issues together with other security programs throughout the country such as New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Columbus. And one of the things that they all said is that the first part when you’re building a new program is about building a trusting relationship within the community,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal noted that the process of building that trust has already begun as he’s been invited to go to several synagogues and conduct training sessions with them.

He added that sometimes they have these trainings with anywhere from five to 100 people attending, but that no matter how many people are present, it’s incredibly important to take that time to form a relationship and communicate relevant and timely information.

Rosenthal said that while the services that JShield provides are a critical part of being prepared and having better safety and security, the work doesn’t stop after one training session or threat assessment.

“We’re not just coming in, doing the training and leaving … It’s really an ongoing dialogue when you’re talking about security because it never really ends. You’re never finally secure. It’s always a process and you’re always rethinking things and looking at vulnerabilities and trying to find the next way we can improve,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal added that there’s also a benefit when it comes to helping these organizations obtain grants, as he said there’s about to be a federal funding window released for nonprofit security grants.

He said that JShield already had around 40 organizations come to them for help with writing grant applications and doing security assessments that will help inform them on what to ask for with a grant.

And these grants, trainings and assessments come at a highly important time for the Jewish community with the rise of antisemitism taking hold in the country in a post-Oct. 7 world.

“We’re committed to instilling a mindset of security in each of our community members so that we can develop a culture of security that addresses all of the unique needs and diversity of the Jewish community in this region,” Rosenthal said.

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