To raise the level of security in the Washington Jewish community, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has set up a partnership with the non-profit that oversees safety for the organized Jewish community in North America.
The partnership with Secure Community Network, announced last month, will provide the Jewish community with a security adviser and a $100,000 grant from Montgomery County to spend on security.
Mark Jardina, a former Marine with 20 years of experience in both government and private homeland security sectors, became regional security adviser last month.
He said he has begun introducing himself to Jewish organizations and has met with 20 synagogues and three JCCs.
He said he does not plan on making any major changes to security in the foreseeable future. Instead he will first focus on understanding the community’s needs.
“The region is huge,” Jardina said, “[I’m going to] begin by standardizing the messaging, establish which standards we’ve done a great job of. That’s the first six months to a year—bringing the community together.”
The New York-based SCN was established under the auspices of Jewish Federations of North America—the umbrella of local federations—and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
Jardina said that as a SCN employee working for the Washington federation, he will have access to SCN’s resources and contacts. He added that he can use those resources to inform Jewish organizations of how best to protect people and run safety drills.
“[SCN] serves as the formal liaison with law enforcement and the Jewish community,” said Michael Masters, CEO and national director of SCN. Jardina “is able to leverage all the knowledge and skills and abilities the SCN has had over 15 years.”
The Federation and the Jewish community have been in the security business longer than that. Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, bollards were erected around community buildings to harden their entrances. For the last five years, the federation has had a director of security named Brian Johnson.
Jardina has succeeded him.
And the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington has been the voice of security for the community.
“The JCRC works with the Federation,” said JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber. “We share Jewish communal security responsibility. [We] rely on the Federation to provide expertise when there are unfortunate security incidents. The JCRC works with law enforcement, advocates for money, and arranges for seminars in tandem with the Federation.”
Eileen Frazier, the Federation’s chief operating officer, said her agency realized that SCN could do a better job in providing security at a time when it is generally agreed that anti-Semitic acts are on the rise. While the mass shooting of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue last fall horrified the world, less lethal acts of anti-Semitism have occurred in the Washington area in the form of bomb threats to JCCs and swastikas painted on synagogues and JCCs.
“We decided that SCN was the expert and had the connections the Federation didn’t,” Frazier said. “SCN has much wider and deeper connections with all levels of law enforcement. The positive benefit is that we have a regional security adviser who sits in our Federation building who has technical expertise, but also has national organization expertise.”
“My job is giving the community a centralized resource when they need it,”Jardina said. “If you don’t have a security professional working directly for you, you don’t know who to call. Establishing that partnership with the Federation and SCN is really the most important thing to start.”