If You See Something, Say Something
The community security portfolio of the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee has grown drastically in the past year-and-a-half. This development began after the arrests of local white supremacists who planned to attack Synagogues and Black Churches. Those individuals are now incarcerated, but local and federal law enforcement officers believe the need to develop and maintain robust community security remains. Hate-crimes (locally and nationally) have surged in the past year and the threat of violence from homegrown extremists (of all stripes) has increased.
Since then, we have expanded from an annual pre-High Holidays meeting with local LEOs and community leadership to multiple security forums throughout the year that bring together the Community Security Apparatus. The CSA includes agency and Synagogue volunteer and professional leaders, Jewish community security professionals, five local police and sheriffs’ offices, the State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Our community also is tied into the Secure Community Network, a national homeland security initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Established in 2004 as the first national nonprofit exclusively dedicated to homeland security initiatives on behalf of the American Jewish community, SCN was recognized in 2009 by DHS as a national model for information sharing and faith-based homeland security initiatives. We regularly receive updates about security incidents across North America, in Israel and around the world. When we receive alerts from SCN, they’re shared immediately with the CSA. But info sharing is a two-way street. A recent JCFR alert to our CSA was reproduced by SCN for Jewish communities in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina. By sharing information we keep each other safe – locally, regionally and nationally.
Your Federation fields calls about security in our community and is ready to respond to the CSA (even on Shabbat). Recently we called a local FBI special agent on his cellphone, on a Friday at 8 p.m. because we needed expert guidance -- and we got it. Relationships must be built to gain immediate access and we’re privileged to have and maintain them.
In December, the JCRC hosted a DHS workshop on “Active Shooter Preparedness” for all houses of worship in Greater Richmond at the Weinstein JCC. Dozens of local faith leaders learned (alongside our community) how to prevent, address and recover from that horrific scenario.
In addition, the JCRC is proud to work with Richmond Jewish Foundation. RJF’s Genesis Fund, along with a very generous anonymous donor, will make $100,000 available for safety and security needs in the local Jewish community. The RJF grant qualification process focuses on two areas. First, each agency or Synagogue must partner with local LEOs and DHS to receive expert guidance. Second, the agency or Synagogue must develop a high-quality Emergency Operations Plan. A well-developed and executed EOP will ensure more community members knowing how to handle emergencies.
A Hanover County Sheriff’s sergeant recently noted the critical nature of community cooperation. “No matter how many sheriffs are on patrol at any minute, they could never be everywhere,” he explained.
“So what’s needed is for community members to speak up if they see something that’s out of place. He stressed, If you See Something, Say Something.”
Anyone observing suspicious behavior should immediately dial 9-1-1. The expression: If you see something, Say Something is not a cliché. It saves lives. If you are in doubt – report it to 911. As soon as feasibly possible, also contact the JCFR at this office. Our ability to inform each other of what we see, can keep us all safer.
Daniel “Doni” Fogel, director of Jewish Community Relations and Israel and Overseas Programming, serves as the point-person for the Jewish community on security matters. He regularly liaises with the CSA and LEOs on behalf of the community. Reach him at DFogel@JewishRichmond.org or (804) 545-8626.
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