US Jewish communities increase security by 42% amid rising antisemitism

Jewish Federations launched last year a $130 million LiveSecure initiative, the largest security campaign in the history of the North American Jewish community.

New York police officers stand guard at the door of the Union Temple of Brooklyn, in 2018. (photo credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/JTA)
New York police officers stand guard at the door of the Union Temple of Brooklyn, in 2018.
(photo credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/JTA)

CHICAGO – In response to rising antisemitism, the number of Jewish communities in North America that use security programs has increased by 42%, the Jewish Federations of North America announced at the start of its annual gathering on Sunday in Chicago to some 1,200 Jewish communal leaders.

“At the time of the Tree of Life [synagogue] shootings [in Pittsburgh in 2018], only a smattering of communities had professional community security initiatives, but since the launch of the LiveSecure initiative, things have gotten better,” said Jewish Federations board chair, Julie Platt.

“It’s incredible to see LiveSecure in action, making our communities safer every day, even as antisemitism and hate are on the rise,” she added.

Antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the United States in 2021, with 2,717 reported incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to the Anti-Defamation League. This represents the highest number of incidents on record since the ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979 – an average of more than seven incidents per day and a 34% increase year over year.

One year after the launch of Jewish Federations' LiveSecure initiative

A crowd attends a vigil outside the Tree of Life synagogue Tree of Life synagogue, marking one week since a deadly shooting there, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018 (credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)A crowd attends a vigil outside the Tree of Life synagogue Tree of Life synagogue, marking one week since a deadly shooting there, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018 (credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)

Just one year since the launch of Jewish Federations’ $130-million LiveSecure initiative, the largest security campaign in the history of the North American Jewish community, the total number of Jewish communities that have comprehensive security programs stands at 64. Before the launch of the initiative, there were only 45 such programs.

New security programs have been launched in San Diego, California; Houston, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; Rockland County, New York; and Jacksonville, Florida, among other cities. Existing initiatives have grown in strength and scope as well.

LiveSecure works with grants issued by Jewish Federations of North America, with matching funds raised by the local federation. Funds go toward implementing professionally led, comprehensive communal security initiatives and active-shooter security training, enhancing them where they already exist. Funds are also used in advocacy and training on how to access government funding.

Each federation works closely with the Jewish Federations of North America and the Secure Community Network, the organization Jewish Federations established to secure the American Jewish community in the aftermath of 9/11.

The funds raised by the LiveSecure campaign can be used for training fees; threat, vulnerability and risk assessments; physical security technology and equipment; mass notification systems; federated camera systems; and intelligence services.

Community Security Initiatives across North America have saved countless lives and thwarted a multitude of potential threats against the Jewish community. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker credited the training he received to save his life during the hostage crisis in January at Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.

In addition to LiveSecure, Jewish Federations advance security through advocacy activities. Since 2004, Jewish Federations have advocated for the vital Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps bolster the physical security of Jewish communities by funding communal building reinforcements and access controls, CCTV systems and more.

Jewish Federations played a lead role in advancing a proposed increase in funding to the program, from $250 million to $360 million in 2023.