As we shared earlier this month, we have been preparing to roll out our Community Security Initiative, and yesterday, we were pleased to announce that Rockland’s Jewish Community is the first of over 145 Jewish Federations and communities across North America to create a new security infrastructure with the financial support of UJA Federation of New York and of the LiveSecure Program - a partnership of the Jewish Federations of North America and Secure Communities Network. This initiative is fully funded for the next several years, and we are so excited to introduce it to you.
Rockland’s Jewish community is unique. With over 105,000 community members, out of a total Rockland population of 330,000, this is the highest density of any Jewish community in the United States. There are several hundred institutions in the community, including schools, synagogues, camps, and community centers. And there are real threats. Our community doesn’t need to reach back to remember Pittsburgh, and Poway, Jersey City, Dallas, or our own streets, where antisemitic violence has taken lives. Our partners at the ADL share statistics regularly, and those statistics show a doubling of violent incidents right here, and a massive increase in antisemitic incidents across the country. The challenge isn’t unique to Rockland, but our geography, demography, density, diversity and proximity to other Jewish communities makes us the right place to build and deliver a comprehensive approach to this very real challenge.
We are excited to welcome Ethan Erlich, a retired NYPD Detective with over 2 decades of experience, to lead this initiative in Rockland as our Director of Security. Ethan served 21 years in the NYPD, including over 11 years as a senior team member in the Emergency Service Unit. He has responded to emergencies at every scale and has top-level training and experience in special weapons and tactics, active shooter response, dignitary protection, site security, surveillance & counter-surveillance, WMD/suicide bomber detection and prevention and more. He is certified from NYS DCJS and others to train and instruct police, security, and civilian courses. Ethan will have the following priorities:
- Conduct formal and actionable vulnerability assessments for synagogues, schools, camps, and other institutions in the Jewish community.
- Consult and assist Jewish institutions with applications for Non-Profit Security Grants through State and Federal programs.
- Offer active threat training, stop the bleed training, volunteer training, and other security related education.
- Develop and enhance relationships with law enforcement, sharing information and intelligence, and creating communication networks across Jewish community institutions.
- Work with law enforcement to identify and address additional vulnerabilities beyond the doors and walls of our institutions.
- Share best practices and learnings with other communities under threat.
We have begun our outreach to Jewish institutions across Rockland. Our Board of Rabbis and their constituent synagogues are eager to work with Ethan. We have already begun meetings and setting up assessments and training. Integral to our efforts as well is our partnership with Agudath Israel, introducing the security initiative to synagogues, schools, and camps in the Haredi community, including those that we do not yet have relationships with. We've worked to integrate as many Jewish institutions and groups as we can reach into our planning, and we've included our local beneficiary agencies as well.
We appreciate the support we are receiving from elected officials, and we appreciate the previous investments in security they have made. We have also begun meeting with Law Enforcement, and we are not only very appreciative of all they do to secure all of Rockland, but also for the enthusiasm with which this initiative was received. There are a number of communities across Rockland that are also targeted by hate and challenged to be secure. What we learn from building this initiative will be valuable to them too, and we look forward to continuing consultations and discussions with them. Many thanks to all of those who have shared their suggestions and advice and have been part of shaping this initiative, especially among our Federation leadership. These include Steve Gold and Marcy Pressman, our co-Presidents; Richard Levin & Evan Karzhevsky, Chair and Vice Chair of our CRC; Rivkie Feiner, Board and CRC member, David Heskiel, Board member and Security Committee Chair, and all of the members of our CRC and Board who have devoted years to leadership and to confronting antisemitism in our community. This initiative also has the potential to do something those of you who have regularly been reading my messages will know is of critical importance to me. It can bring this diverse and sometimes divided community closer together on an issue of common interest. This commonality, no matter where it comes from, is something we can and we must build upon.
If your synagogue, school, camp or other community institution would like to discuss how our security initiative can help make it more secure, please ask your professional staff or security committee to visit jewishrockland.org and click on the SECURITY INQUIRIES button on the top of the page.