The North Jersey Jewish community breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week after the arrest of a suspect in the firebombing and arson of two area synagogues, but communal leaders continued to urge caution and vigilance.
Two weeks ago, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JFNNJ) held a security briefing for Jewish communal leaders. The organization intends to follow up early next month with a series of workshops with Community Security Service, a New York-based organization that trains volunteers for Jewish institutions to guard against and report suspicious activity around their institutions.
“We are exploring follow-up meetings and workshops with Jewish leaders to provide some real hands-on advice and assistance for upgrading their security procedures,” said David Gad-Harf, JFNNJ’s chief operating officer and associate executive vice president. “Our community has been confronted with yet more anti-Semitism, taking different forms,” such as the discovery last week of an offensive wi-fi name at the Richard Rhodda Center in Teaneck “and now the mailing of some anti-Semitic material that came to some of our rabbis and federation leaders.”
Next month’s workshops, he emphasized, would be for invited communal leaders only.
Despite this week’s arrest, Etzion Neuer, acting director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) New Jersey office, cautioned against letting new security procedures lapse. Jewish leaders appear to be heeding that message.
“Clearly we are going to remain vigilant,” said Joy Kurland, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We are certainly not becoming complacent by any means. We will instruct members of the Jewish community to do the same; if you see something, say something.”
The ADL, along with the Jewish Federation of Greater Clifton-Passaic, the N.J. State Association of Jewish Federations, and the Community Relations Committee of Metrowest and Central New Jersey were scheduled to hold a security meeting in Whippany on Wednesday night. The meeting, according to Mark Levenson, president-elect of the State Association and past president of the Clifton-Passaic federation, would launch the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign in the area, its first use in a faith-based community.
After the arrest earlier this week, Gad-Harf praised the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and its cooperation with the Jewish community, as well as what he called an outpouring of support from outside the Jewish community.
“It really shows how Bergen County has banded together during a very horrible time,” he said. “Sometimes out of bad incidents like this comes goodness, whether it’s recognizing the value and support of law enforcement agencies or the outpouring of support and goodwill of other faith groups and ethnic communities here in Bergen County.”