Hoenlein to 'Post': $1 billion needed to secure U.S. Jewish institutions

Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog will hold meetings this week in the US with top Jewish leaders.

October 30, 2018 13:21
3 minute read.
Pupils from the Yeshiva Girls School pray outside the Tree of Life synagogue

Pupils from the Yeshiva Girls School pray outside the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday's shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 29, 2018. (photo credit: CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS)


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Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that adequately securing all Jewish institutions in the US, including synagogues and schools, could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and even as much as one billion dollars.

He mentioned that there are hundreds of small Jewish communities around the country where the burden of security costs would be “very taxing.” Hoenlein said that the situation was currently “better than it was,” and noted that many communities work well with local police departments. He pointed in particular to cooperation with the LA and NY police departments, which he described as “remarkably sensitive and cooperative with the community.”

The Security Community Network organization, established by the conference, and the Jewish Federations of North America work closely with any community requesting security advice and assistance, and provide local federations with security training, Hoenlein said.

However, he said, prioritizing security requirements is often neglected shortly after incidents like the Pittsburgh attack.
“After an incident, people are very concerned for about a week, and then when [the] budget comes up security gets short shrift,” said Hoenlein.

He said that during a meeting scheduled Tuesday for heads of major US Jewish organizations and Bennett, leaders would discuss what practical steps can be taken to improve security at Jewish institutions. He added that they need to take into account “what can be done internally by the Jewish community, and what we should be looking for from law enforcement and from others.”

Hoenlein said that due to an understanding between the Israeli and US governments, Israel cannot provide security training in the US, but said that there is “a lot of cooperation” between the Israeli security services and the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, including information exchange regarding specific threats or antisemitic elements and groups.

The Israeli government is looking into practical steps it can take to assist the North American Jewish community in wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, including the possible allocation of state funds for the security of US Jewish institutions.
Prosecutors vow 'justice' for PA synagogue victims, October 30, 2018 (Reuters)

Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog will hold meetings this week in the US with top Jewish leaders in New York where they are expected to explore possible programs and partnerships that the government can partner with to expand security for Jewish communities. Bennett is currently in the US and Herzog is scheduled to travel there later this week.

In addition, there are discussions to convene an inter-agency committee that periodically convenes to discuss the security needs of Jewish communities overseas.

The committee includes representatives from the Jewish Agency, the Diaspora Ministry, the Mossad, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.

Known as the “Emergency Committee,” the group is considering convening next week after Bennett and Herzog return from the US.
The Mossad has a special department called Bitzur, which is focused on the security of Jewish communities overseas and works with foreign intelligence agencies to ensure their security.

Officials from the Mossad and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) provide Jewish communities abroad with information about how they can protect their institutions, and what kind of security measures and defense systems they need. They also provide intelligence about specific threats and which organizations may pose a danger to a community.

The committee has met in recent years after similar attacks against Jews around the world, including after the terrorist attack at the Hypercacher supermarket in Paris in 2015.

The Diaspora Affairs Ministry and the Jewish Agency have a permanent working team which convenes regularly to discuss combating global antisemitism, and looks at ways it can help Jewish communities in different countries.

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