By Mark Wilf, Chair of Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees.
Last summer, Jewish Community Partners partnered with the Secure Community Network (SCN), the official homeland security initiative of the organized North American Jewish community, to launch a Regional Security Director program with the hiring of Memphis resident, security expert, and law enforcement veteran Stuart Frisch. Learn more here.
This past year, from Pittsburgh to Poway, our community has been the target of hate and violence, manifested in two violent attacks against our houses of worship, with several additional plots prevented through the work of federal, state and local law enforcement.
At the same time, through the group that we rely on to protect the Jewish community, our Secure Community Network (SCN), our team has worked tirelessly to train our communities, assess our gaps and vulnerabilities and provide security advice and counsel, ensuring that our synagogues, schools, community centers, camps and other community spaces are taking the necessary efforts to prepare for and be able to respond to incidents through empowerment and resiliency.
In the more than 40 communities that have security directors, SCN has worked to support these individuals and develop best practices. In the vast majority of our communities, SCN has worked directly to address safety and security matters.
As part of these efforts, in support of our ongoing partnerships with our federal law enforcement partners, I had the privilege of attending meetings this week in Washington, D.C. with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan and FBI Director Christopher Wray. I was joined by JFNA and SCN leadership, as well as—for our meeting with the FBI Director—other key organizational partners around collaborative safety and security efforts, including the JCCA and ADL.
These meetings, organized and coordinated through SCN, are critical to the ongoing relationships and partnerships with our top homeland security officials who are tasked with keeping our communities safe and our nation secure.
Both Acting Secretary McAleenan and Director Wray lauded the work of SCN, holding it up as a model for other faith communities. They reaffirmed their commitment to continuing to work closely with JFNA, through SCN, to ensure the safety and security of our community and to combat the hate and threats that have become a pervasive and persistent reality in today’s complex and dynamic threat environment.
Throughout these meetings, the strength and power of the Federation system and our network was on full display. We are relied upon by key partners in the constant fight against terrorism and hate but also in the wake of natural disasters that devastate and impact so many communities – and where Federations are on the frontlines of response and recovery.
I particularly want to commend our SCN Chair, Harold Gernsbacher, and our extraordinary National SCN Director, Michael Masters, as well as their leadership team, and the network of regional directors for all they do for our Jewish community.
The pride and gratitude we feel for the crucial and lifesaving work being done on our behalf by SCN requires constant support and empowerment from our system. SCN needs to expand its ability to serve the entirety of our community, which makes over 200 requests per week for its services.
I ask that you to join with me in supporting SCN and identifying others who can do so. We want our community members to walk through our doors with confidence that their safety and security are our number one priority.
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