On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer (D–5th Dist.) convened a group of security experts at the offices of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey to talk about security in general — and synagogue security in particular — to rabbis, synagogue directors, and other community leaders.
The experts — the director of the New Jersey office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Jared Maples, FBI intelligence analyst Carly Rasiewicz, and FBI Special Agent Anthony Zampogna — were in Paramus for what they called a synagogue security summit. They agreed that the trends they see include a growing number of hate crimes in New Jersey and also a significant increase of bias and hate crimes — both anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim — in schools, from kindergarten through senior year. In fact, Mr. Gottheimer said, quoting Anti-Defamation League statistics, hate crimes in New Jersey rose 32 percent in the last year, and now the state is third in the nation in those crimes.
But the thing that is “keeping them up most at night,” Mr. Gottheimer said, quoting one of the panelists, is “Isis-inspired lone wolves. That’s homegrown terror.
“The issue is that you have people with festering anger — that’s also where the rise in hate crimes is coming from — and you have them sitting in their living rooms, in their boxers, watching Isis on YouTube and getting trained. Both the FBI and Homeland Security pointed this out as their top concern.
“And so is an increase in white supremacist activity,” Mr. Gottheimer added.
The rabbis and other communal leaders asked what they can to protect themselves; Mr. Gottheimer talked about the “nearly $4 million in grants that we clawed back for nonprofits and other religious institutions in September to use for security, for active shooter training, and for fortifications. Some grants for this year closed this week, but there are others that are available through the GSA.” That’s the Department of Homeland Security’s nonprofit security grant program.
Although the threats are very real, and the world around us perhaps is becoming more dangerous, “there still are resources that we are not using,” Mr. Gottheimer said. “We should use all the resources that are available through Homeland Security and the FBI, and I can be a central point of contact for religious institutions that are looking for assistance, both in getting grants and in training, planning, and making sure that we all are adequately prepared.
“I’m deeply proud that my office could bring attention to programs like the nonprofit security grant to make our schools, houses of worship, and communities more secure against hate crimes, bias, and the ever-growing threat of homegrown, Isis-inspired terrorism,” Mr. Gottheimer said.
And constant vigilance is called for. “Unfortunately, we’re at a time where you have to be prepared all the time,” Mr. Maples said. But he holds out hope. “There is no place for hate in New Jersey.”