JFNA Partners with DHS to Defend Against Threats

June 10, 2011 – Following a joint White House meeting, The Jewish Federations of North America and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new partnership today to combat the ongoing threat of terrorism to America’s Jewish institutions. It is the first instance of DHS partnering with a faith-based community to advance its “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign, which will be disseminated through the vast Jewish Federation network.

“Homeland security begins with hometown security, and our nation’s faith-based organizations play a critical role in keeping our communities safe,” said Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Expanding the ‘If You See Something, Say Something™’ campaign to national Jewish groups, the first faith-based partnership for the campaign, is an important step in the department’s ongoing effort to engage the American public in our nation’s security efforts.”

“The American Jewish community and the places we gather are, unfortunately, often targets for terrorists,” said Michael Gelman, chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of The Jewish Federations of North America. “This new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security will empower us to counter this threat as we become more actively involved in our own protection.”

The security threat to Jewish community centers, schools and places of worship has not abated since the death of Osama bin Laden. Days after his killing, al-Qaeda in Yemen called for retaliatory attacks against Jewish targets. Unrelated but recent examples of successful or thwarted terror attacks on U.S. Jewish institutions include:

  • New York City, May 2011: Two men trying to buy pistols and hand grenades were arrested for their alleged plot to attack Manhattan synagogues;
  • Chicago, October 2010: A bomb-maker for al-Qaeda attempted to ship air cargo bombs addressed to Chicago-based synagogues;
  • Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, December 2009: An American citizen and self-proclaimed follower of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula targeted Jewish institutions across the United States before being arrested for his attack on an Army recruiting center in Little Rock.

The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign – originally implemented by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and now licensed to DHS for a nationwide campaign – is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.

The Jewish Federations, in association with their Secure Community Network (SCN) initiative, will help launch the campaign in the community with customized posters, announcements and alerts to the thousands of centers and organizations that the Federation movement reaches.

“The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign empowers members of communities to become active participants in a shared homeland security effort and further establishes a ‘culture of security’ and awareness in Jewish institutions and communities across the country,” said Paul Goldenberg, Secure Community Network national director.

“For more than a century, Jewish Federations have been the connecting force of the North American Jewish community,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with DHS and SCN to leverage our wide collective network to help better protect U.S. Jewish institutions from potential threats.”

The Federation movement, collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent, protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning).

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