by Jenn Ross
Around this time each year, I dedicate my column to all of our Veterans and also to our active duty military and I have gratitude for your hard work and sacrifices to our nation year round. Your service has maintained our freedom and has positively impacted the lives of Americans and citizens of countless other nations worldwide. Thank you!
On the home front, concerns for our personal safety continue to escalate as domestic terrorism, anti-Semitism, and other acts of hate impact communities with increasing frequency. On October 24, I attended a Religious Security Summit at the State Capitol that was coordinated by Hank Butler of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition to hear from many experts about current threats and what organizations can do to further protect themselves. Thank you to Hank for coordinating this informative session.
We heard from representatives from Homeland Security, US Secret Service, PA State Police, FBI, US Postal Service, and Robin Burstein from the ADL. Paulette Keifer of the Jewish Community Foundation also attended and suggested that the organizers create a contact list for congregations and agencies which documented what we learned that morning so people would know who to contact for different purposes. That was a fantastic idea and if they create that resource, I will share that with the security list-serve in our community.
One of the presenters acknowledged that the volume of information being shared probably felt like we were drinking from a fire hose. Here are some takeaways you may find useful if you are not already aware of them:
- JFNA funds an incredible resource, www.SecureCommunityNetwork.org, which aggregates a wide variety of security information, provides daily updates, alerts and warnings, and more. Additionally, if suspicious issues occur, please report them to DutyDesk@SecureCommunityNetwork.org which is staffed 24/7 and tracks national trends. This is a resource I reference regularly and everyone concerned with security (this applies to other faiths as well) should make use of this site.
- I encourage you to review US Postal Poster 84 about suspicious mail and packages and hang it in your mailroom if applicable: https://about.usps.com/posters/pos84.pdf
- Robin Burstein shared that according to ADL Data, at least a dozen White Supremacists have been arrested for plots, attacks, & threats against the Jewish Community since the deadly Pittsburgh shooting (October 20 press release). As a reminder, ADL provides numerous resources for dealing with hate and bias for free on their website www.adl.org.
- The Jewish institutions in our community are well aware that Department of Homeland Security will provide a security assessment of religious institutions free of charge. If you belong to another faith community and your institution needs an assessment, visit the South Central Task Force for more information: https://www.ready4business.org/.
- You can download the “See Send” app, which connects you to a nationwide network of intelligence centers and allows you to report suspicious activities..
I commend our synagogues and agencies for taking security seriously. Safety is ultimately everyone’s responsibility and that’s why two of my highlights focus on reporting suspicious activities and a third talks about ADL’s announcement about thwarted attacks. One of the other things that was mentioned was that every perpetrator in an attack last year had publicly announced a threat about an individual or a facility in advance of an attack. Awareness and follow through are among our best defenses.
Stay safe and keep in touch. You can reach me at 717-236-9555 x3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.