(New York Jewish Week) — After police officers arrested two armed men at Penn Station last November and accused them of planning to attack Jews, it soon emerged that a local Jewish security agency had provided the tip that thwarted the attack.
In fact, the tipoff and arrest were due to the work of multiple Jewish security groups all active in the New York City area, leaders of those groups say. Evan Bernstein, the CEO of the New York-based Community Security Service, said it received intelligence about the men from a Jewish watchdog in the United Kingdom. It then passed that information on to the Community Security Initiative, which shared it with law enforcement agencies.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, meanwhile, found that one of the men had tweeted a stream of antisemitic and misogynistic messages, according to Gothamist.
Now that partnership between the organizations, which have similar missions and similar names, is being formalized, leaders of the groups announced at a press conference on Tuesday. A new umbrella coalition called the Jewish Security Alliance will aim to act as the central point of contact for New York City-area and New Jersey law enforcement on issues affecting the Jewish community. The organizations all signed a “memorandum of understanding” formalizing the partnership, which they said has existed informally for the past six months.
“Coordination and intelligence in moments of crisis is critical,” Bernstein said at the press conference. “It is something that needs to be replicated across the United States. We cannot afford to be operating in silos. This type of working partnership makes our Jewish community safer.”
The new alliance is a partnership between the ADL, a national antisemitism and anti-extremism watchdog; the Community Security Initiative, which coordinates security for local Jewish institutions in the New York area; and the local branch of the Community Security Service, whose main mission is to train volunteer security patrols at synagogues. The partnership also includes a number of Jewish federations in metro New York City and New Jersey.
Tuesday’s press conference was held at the ADL’s investigative research lab, in front of a wall of computer screens highlighting incidents of hate across America that resembled the headquarters of a surveillance agency in a James Bond film.
“There may be an incident that happened in Rockland, Nassau County and New Jersey, and because of the different geographies and different jurisdictions, no one law enforcement agency would necessarily know about it,” said Mitch Silber, executive director of the CSI, who previously served as director of intelligence analysis at the NYPD. “Because we’re that connective tissue between the communities among the different agencies, we can connect those dots.”
In addition to liaising with law enforcement agencies, the partnership will provide security training and recommendations to Jewish institutions and their members, according to a press release. It will also aim to be a “reliable and inclusive source of information on threats or other security issues” and will collect incident reports from Jewish institutions and community members. The ADL has established several other partnerships with Jewish organizations, such as Hillel International and leading organizations of the Conservative and Reform movements, to facilitate reporting of antisemitic incidents.
The announcement of the partnership comes days after the ADL released its annual national audit of antisemitism for 2022, which reported a 36% rise in incidents relative to the previous year. More than a quarter of the 3,697 incidents included in the report took place in New York state and New Jersey. The audit also found that the majority of the 111 antisemitic assaults in 2022 targeted Orthodox Jews, and that nearly half of the assaults, 52, took place in Brooklyn, which the report called the “epicenter of assaults.” An additional 14 took place elsewhere in New York City.
At the press conference, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also highlighted another recent report by his organization that found that there are more people in the U.S. harboring “significant” antisemitic beliefs than there have been for decades.
“This is personal to me,” Greenblatt said. “I live here. This is my community. I go to synagogue every Saturday. My kids are at Hebrew school every week. I get angry. I’m outraged. We’re seeing those [antisemitic] beliefs create real harm.”
Scott Richman, the regional director of ADL’s New York-New Jersey office, called the partnership, “a formal declaration of a reality that has existed for some time.”
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Bernstein said that before this partnership was formed, Jewish community organizations were “not really communicating” with one another.
“Everybody was repeating themselves and being off message a little bit,” Bernstein said. “As we react to something, if we have a unified force, for law enforcement to see that unification, and for the community to see that unification, and for it to have collectively the same voice across the board, is very important.”
After the press conference, Bernstein told the New York Jewish Week that this is “a pilot program” that he would like to see expand nationwide. According to a map of antisemitic incidents displayed at the press conference, Southern California and Miami were also hotspots of antisemitic activity. Bernstein said that CSS has branches in both those areas.
“This will be a case study,” Bernstein said. “If it does well, everybody is excited about this not becoming a one-off program. It’s gotta have some serious legs here to show that this really works long-term before we can think about other communities.”