Security summit seeks safety amid increasing violence

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One hundred officials from across North America and Europe were in New York last week to attend the first-ever international Jewish security summit, designed to coordinate efforts that will better protect Jews and their institutions internationally.

The June 12 meeting featured officials from Jewish Federations of North America, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York police commissioner and high-level security officials from such areas as Ukraine, France, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.


“What affects and impacts one of our communities globally impacts all of our communities,” said Paul Goldenberg, who heads Secure Communities Network, a national homeland security initiative of the JFNA and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Those attending the meeting “didn’t see borders. An attack on one of our communities is an attack on all,” Goldenberg said.

Jews are facing increasing and unprecedented violence from many sides, including neo-Nazi groups, fundamentalist terrorist organizations and the lone wolf, he said.

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Goldenberg stressed that Jews shouldn’t look at themselves as victims and need not flee their homeland despite the rise in global violence.

“We are not going anywhere,” he said. “We are not on the run. Jewish communities should not be in a panic. However, there absolutely is a matter of concern. We absolutely see an increase in these attacks.”


The rise of extremism and the impact it’s having on Jewish communities here and abroad were addressed during the meeting with the goal of building partnerships between law enforcement and Jewish organizations, Goldenberg said.

“The fact is that international Jewry is going to be working very closely together with law enforcement. Our goal is to empower our community through training, vigilance and security technology,” he said. Those working in Jewish day schools, JCCs and other Jewish organizations must know how to respond to different scenarios.

They must know how to engage an active shooter, how to evacuate a building, how to identify suspicious people or events in order to “really be an active partner in regard to their own safety,” he noted.

When 30 people working at a Jewish organization are trained, “there are 60 extra eyes on the ground,” Goldenberg said. “It’s a forceful multiplier.”

John Cohen, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, attended the meeting. Cohen, the former principal deputy for counterterrorism at Homeland Security, said his New Jersey college is focusing on global violence directed against people of faith in general, and Jews in particular.

People at Rutgers are studying how best to integrate general policing in day-to-day life to prevent targeted extremism and build and strengthen partnerships with law enforcement, faith communities and the private sector, Cohen said.

“It’s important to build awareness, making sure everyone has a shared understanding of what the threat is,” he said.

It doesn’t help to have employees at a synagogue or Jewish community center call police when they notice someone or something suspicious if the local police they call aren’t trained on the best way to handle such a call, he said.

Nor does it help if a JCC has a plan to handle a
violent incident but that plan is never explained to the local police department, he said.
Strengthening partnerships is very important, he stressed, noting that terrorists tend not to circumvent security but rather change their target if confronted with
security.

Future meetings are planned by Secure Communities Network, which was established in 2004 as the first national nonprofit exclusively dedicated to security initiatives on behalf of the American Jewish community.

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