Jewish leaders in New York and New Jersey said they’re forming a regional security alliance to help gather intelligence and prepare for threats as antisemitism surges around the U.S.
Eight local organizations held a news conference in Manhattan on Tuesday to announce the partnership, led by the ADL, the Jewish civil rights organization, which reported last week that it had seen a historic rise in reports of anti-Jewish activity.
The Jewish Security Alliance of NY/NJ is intended to streamline efforts to spot and respond to potential attacks at a time when Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues in the tri-state area have faced an unprecedented volume of threats, the leaders said.
“This alliance will allow nothing to slip through the cracks,” said Tim Torell, community security director for the Paramus-based Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
The ADL last week said there had been almost 3,700 reports of threats, harassment and violence against Jews in the U.S. last year, the highest number since the organization began tracking incidents in 1979 and a 36% increase over the previous year.
Much of it was centered in the New York metropolitan area, home to one of the world’s largest Jewish populations. Nearly one-third of all antisemitic incidents in the U.S. and two-thirds of antisemitic assaults occurred in New York and New Jersey.
In November, the FBI warned of an online threat to New Jersey synagogues that prompted local temples to close their doors or boost security. In January, a Clifton man was arrested and charged with trying to firebomb a Bloomfield synagogue. A month later, a neo-Nazi group called for an antisemitic “National Day of Hate,” though many Jews responded defiantly to that provocation by packing the pews of synagogues.
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On Tuesday, New York City police arrested a man in connection with a string of antisemitic acts in Queens, including graffiti scrawled outside a synagogue.
With the threats becoming more violent, local Jewish leaders said Tuesday that they needed to respond with a unified effort.
The security alliance includes five regional Jewish federations, including the North Jersey group and the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County. The Community Security Service, a network of more than 2,500 volunteers trained to defend synagogues and Jewish institutions, will also take part.
The groups gathered at ADL offices in Manhattan to sign a memorandum of agreement and pledge tighter coordination in their security efforts.
“The past year has seen multiple serious threats against Jewish communal institutions in New York and New Jersey, some of which could have been far more lethal had it not been for the diligent work of our communal partners and law enforcement,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, also known as the Anti-Defamation League.
“By working together, we can protect more people and create a model that we can replicate around the country,” he said.
Torell, the North Jersey security official, said he recently led a session for synagogue members in Teaneck on “Run, Hide and Fight,” a form of emergency response training for active shooter incidents. The new partnership, he said, “will not just help Federation and alliance partners in responding to antisemitic incidents in our area but will also facilitate strategies to prevent them.”
“The increased level of information-sharing will be a game changer to the process of Jewish communal security,” Torell said.
Evan Bernstein, who heads the Community Security Service, said “the rise of antisemitism that has been documented by the ADL is not going away anytime soon. This partnership will make all of us safer.”
“Antisemitic threats don’t stop at town or state borders,” added Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which serves over 125,000 Jews in Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties. “Over the past year, the greater New York-New Jersey area has seen an unprecedented rise in threats and incidents, and we have all stepped up our efforts to prepare and secure our communities.”
Deena Yellin covers religion for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering how the spiritual intersects with our daily lives, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.