Jewish Community Security — What’s the Role of Government?

What keeps Alejandro Mayorkas, formerly the deputy Homeland Security secretary, awake nights is the very “real” possibility of an act of terror or a violent hate crime against the Jewish community. 

We’ve seen such concern globally.

Recently, across the world, governments at the national and local levels have stepped up with increased funding and more personnel to defend Jewish communities. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo & Hyper Cacher attacks in France, security forces there deployed for the largest peacetime operation in French history, much of it focused on Jewish schools, synagogues, and community centers.

The View from Abroad
France, while home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, is far from alone in these efforts. The British government has committed nearly $18 million in new money to defend Jewish institutions. Belgium and Australia have also given millions to their respective communities.

And, the Czech government signed an agreement in April to better protect Jewish communal sites in Prague.

Physical Security Needs
Here at home, in part due to committed advocacy by the Jewish Federations of North America, the Federal government already funds “target hardening” grants for the nonprofit sector. Each year fifty communities ranked most at risk receive funding. After Ohio being entirely left out for several years, last year Cleveland was again on the list, resulting in hundreds of thousands in desperately needed dollars to better secure community institutions. In prior years, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo, were, at various points also eligible.

A key part of a good working relationship with local law enforcement (discussed last month) is ensuring they have the information they need to make the best case to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of any real threats on the ground.

Because it is so difficult to get many cities ranked into the program, at least one state has taken matters into their own hands. California recently enacted a grant program that mimics the federal program but is open to nonprofits statewide.

In the past, reacting to real time needs, governors in Maryland and New York also directed funds to vulnerable nonprofits.

Watchful Eyes
New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have all provided funds to private schools, including Jewish ones, to hire either police officers or security guards.

What Else Can be Done
Beyond these two basic areas, governments continue to work with the nonprofit- and faith-based communities, and ours in particular, to meet new threats.

Through Secure Communities Network (SCN), the security umbrella of the Jewish Federations of North America, a new partnership focused on cybersecurity is being developed with DHS.

This, as well as continued— and improved —efforts to share information, to provide training opportunities, and to deploy appropriate smart technologies will also be key in making our community as safe as possible.

Akron’s Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) and Ohio Jewish Communities (OJC) are working hard on each of these issues, at each level of government.

Ohio Jewish Communities is based in Columbus near the statehouse and also partners with JFNA’s Washington office on federal advocacy.  OJC is the statewide public affairs, government advocacy, and community relations arm of our eight Jewish Federations, including the Jewish Community Board of Akron. Supported by our Annual Campaign, the Jewish Community Relations Committee of JCBA is chaired by Dr. Marty Belsky.



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