What is the US' Iron Dome for Jewish communities? - opinion

Project RAIN has established a proactive shield over the North American Jewish community, uniting Federations, national partners and SCN on a common technology and service platform.

FOLLOWING THE October 27 shooting, US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk with Tree of Life synagogue rabbi Jeffrey Myers as White House advisers Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner walk with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, outside the synagogue on October 30. (photo credit: REUTERS)
FOLLOWING THE October 27 shooting, US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk with Tree of Life synagogue rabbi Jeffrey Myers as White House advisers Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner walk with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, outside the synagogue on October 30.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

On March 27, 2011, the system known as the Iron Dome was initially deployed near Beersheba. Less than 13 days later, the system successfully intercepted a rocket launched from Gaza for the first time. In under a year, the system reportedly shot down 90% of the rockets launched from Gaza that would have landed in populated areas of Israel.

The idea behind the Iron Dome was simple: create a protective shield over Israel so that the country and its people could live in safety and security. Time and again over the last ten years, the Iron Dome has proven its value. Recognizing this, the enemies Israel faces have adapted, becoming more advanced, more aggressive and arguably more committed to their idea of destroying the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

This has required Israel to adapt as well, strengthening and improving the Iron Dome, and advancing new technologies to protect herself, and her people.

Recently, Israel announced a major step in its protection: the advancement of a system designed to identify, intercept and destroy drones, and counter Iranian aggression. Known as the Iron Beam, it is a proactive defense system complimenting the reactive nature of the Iron Dome. It is exactly this type of proactive, forward-leaning posture that is required to protect the Jewish state.

Such a posture is needed not just for Israel and the Jewish people who live there but, sadly, it is needed figuratively in the United States, as well.

 Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, in Ashkelon on August 7, 2022.  (credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, in Ashkelon on August 7, 2022. (credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Such a system – just a little less high tech – does exist, and it has been working diligently for over three years to protect the Jewish community and its facilities, institutions and members in the US.

Base of operation

IN A nondescript office building in Chicago sits an advanced Jewish Security Operations Command Center (JSOCC) staffed with a team of professional intelligence analysts and watch officers. Through computer screens and a sixteen-foot-wide video wall, these individuals are monitoring over 12,400 Jewish facilities, and locating threats made by individuals on the surface, deep and dark webs, and from Islamist extremists to white supremacists.

Developed by the Secure Community Network and other leading security experts, technologists and academics following the October 2018 massacre in Pittsburgh, the system uses advanced artificial intelligence and machine-learning-driven platforms to scour the web for issues impacting the Jewish community, from natural disasters to individuals’ intent on disrupting and even destroying Jewish life in the US.

Known as Project RAIN (Realtime Actionable Intelligence Network), the effort integrates multiple platforms so security professionals and law enforcement can identify risks, evaluate them, identify the potential impact and act, all to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community.

Just like the Iron Dome, Project RAIN has established a proactive shield over the North American Jewish community, uniting Federations, national partners and SCN on a common technology and service platform. With over 12,400 facilities geo-fenced, we can identify when something of significance might impact one of our centers of Jewish life.

While Project RAIN is saving lives, it is not enough to be reactive. So, as Iron Beam proactively protects Israel, we are working to proactively identify and pursue those who hate and threaten the Jewish community across North America.

In the last six months, Project RAIN allowed our team to identify more than 222,700 risk events with potential impact to one of the more than 12,400 Jewish centers of life currently identified within the US Of these, over 4,100 alerts were flagged and assessed by SCN’s JSOCC due to their proximity to a Jewish facility. Of those, SCN referred 343 incidents and individuals to federal law enforcement.

RAIN in action

JUST LAST week, Project RAIN identified a post on the dark web from an individual who alleged that there would be an attack on a synagogue in a mid-size US city, with the offender wanting to kill 25-35 members of the Jewish community, before engaging in an exchange with law enforcement, where he would kill as many police officers as he could prior to either being killed or killing himself.

Our team, using Project RAIN, quickly tracked the potential poster of the information and provided the threat directly to law enforcement. There is now an active investigation.

In another instance, we identified an individual who was making violent threats against the community and specific leadership. The threats were so serious a member of the Jewish had to relocate, with their family, to an undisclosed location as law enforcement and our team worked to track the individual. Ultimately, he was apprehended on a traffic stop. A coordinated effort between Jewish organizations, including SCN, law enforcement, and prosecutors has kept this violent individual off of our streets, and the Jewish community safer.

Through Project RAIN, we have moved from a siloed and reactive security posture to a unified and proactive one. To be fully effective, however, we need every community and every member of the community to be a part of our efforts. It is critical that individuals report everything they note that may be of concern, from an obvious hate crime, such as a swastika painted on a synagogue, to a concerning social media post. If you see something, contact us at [email protected]

In today’s world, where hate travels at the speed of social media and violence can be unleashed in less than 120 characters, this is critical. Each one of us can be part of not just the shield, but the beam. For us, in North America, that means continuing to develop, advance and deploy Project RAIN not just to prevent an attack but to protect Jewish life for today, tomorrow and for future generations.

The writer is the national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network (SCN), the official safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America.