Two events related to the scourge of antisemitism culminated this week in action - one proactive and one reactive. As a Federation, we have to address issues as they come up, but we also have an opportunity to plan and execute policy or programming in a strategic way.
Several weeks ago, I began to work with Rabbi Leiken from Temple Beth Sholom and Rabbi Berkman from New City Jewish Center to address disturbing reports we had all heard directly from students at a local middle school about expressions of antisemitism by other students happening several times. We heard their hurt, and we were all troubled by the fact that they seemed to have got used to its occurrence. We offered these students and their friends suggestions on developing and enhancing their Jewish pride and identity as an important element of confronting antisemitism. The Rabbis reached out to the families and we at Federation began drafting communications and our expectations of the school board. This week, events overtook us, as there were further incidents at a local high school in recent days. Our Community Relations Committee and Rabbis Berkman and Leiken immediately reached out to the local Superintendent expressing our concern and our expectation for effective and consequential action on this issue by the district, and to meet as soon as possible to offer assistance and resources in doing so. Our outreach prompted a swift and encouraging response, and we are looking forward to assisting the district in confronting the antisemitism expressed by some in their schools both tactically and strategically.
Earlier this week, I was proud to represent our Federation along with our Director of Security Ethan Erlich as we signed a memorandum of understanding with partners in the new Jewish Security Alliance of New York and New Jersey. This formalizes security cooperation, integration and partnership that had already been implemented as needed with the Anti Defamation League, Community Security Service, our close partners at Community Security Initiative in NY, and several Federations in New Jersey from Cherry Hill to the Rockland border. We took this step because experience and analysis of the data has demonstrated that fully a third of reported incidents targeting Jews in the US happen in this area, and threats don’t stop at city, state, or county borders. Neither do the measures we take to counter them.
We are proud that intelligence developed by one of our partner agencies and by analysts on our New York team was conveyed to law enforcement and resulted in the arrest in Penn Station a few months back of two armed and dangerous men on their way to attack a synagogue. We are also grateful to our supporters at Jewish Federations of North America, who have supported our initiative through the LiveSecure program.
There’s a lesson for all of us as we develop and deploy comprehensive responses to antisemitism. As both of these events demonstrate, we are stronger and more effective when we work together, whether it is with individuals or between organizations. At your Federation we are the community’s convener. Bringing our community together for collective action or, for that matter, for celebration is literally written into our mission and vision.
As I conclude this description of our collective action this week, I also want to encourage everyone to come together for celebration. One month from now on April 30th, together with JCC Rockland, and in partnership with almost two dozen local agencies Federation is hosting a celebration of Israel’s 75th birthday. Please see the flyer immediately below and click to register for free.