Timothy Torell, who became security director for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey on December 1, will serve as a liaison between the JFNNJ and federal, state, and local law enforcement and private security professionals. His portfolio also will include working with beneficiary institutions to develop and implement security plans.
Although he’s new to the job, Mr. Torell comes to it with a deep understanding of the Jewish security landscape. On November 23, he retired from the Englewood police department as commander of the detective bureau.
“Many of my roles in the detective bureau put me in touch with the Jewish community on almost a daily basis,” he said.
“I wore a bunch of hats, including homeland security liaison with the Bergen County prosecutor’s office and municipal counterterrorism coordinator, doing physical site assessments in shuls and yeshivas. I gave suggestions on best practices to tighten their security and helped them get grants, which is very important because a lot of these security upgrades get very costly,” he continued.
“I also was in charge of the bias crime investigative unit, and a great portion of those incidents involved the Jewish community.”
Mr. Torell joined the Englewood force in 1978 as a volunteer auxiliary. He was hired as a patrol officer in 1980 and became a detective in 1997. The next year, he worked with the New York police department’s Torah Task Force to recover Torah scrolls and silver adornments stolen from Temple Emanu-El, then in Englewood.
Mr. Torell was promoted to commander of the bureau in 2009. A few months ago, when he was 63, Mr. Torell was starting to think about retiring when he got a call from his friend Robert Anzilotti, retired chief of detectives at the Bergen County prosecutor’s office.
Mr. Anzilotti had recently opened his own institutional security agency, the Anzilotti Group, and had just met with Jason Shames, CEO and executive vice president of the JFNNJ. The federation’s security director, Gerard Dargan, was leaving. Would Mr. Torell be interested in the position?
Yes, he was.
“As my career was winding down, this job opportunity appeared — and it was like the stars were aligned,” Mr. Torell said.
“I had such a great history with the Jewish community, and to be able to do this in my life after the police department was an incredible opportunity.”
He and Mr. Shames had met several times, starting in 2011, when Mr. Shames was new in his position, and in the wake of a series of firebombs and anti-Semitic graffiti targeting synagogues across Bergen County.
In 2016, Mr. Torell was part of a delegation of first responders the federation invited to Israel to get an up-close look at the Jewish state’s police and emergency services. Later, Mr. Torell gave a tour of the Englewood police department to groups of Israeli students that the federation brought to Bergen County.
“So my history with the federation, aside from the trip to Israel, was already significant,” Mr. Torell said.
“Tim is a utopian fit for us,” Mr. Shames said. “He comes to us with a wealth of experience in law enforcement, he was in Israel with our first mission for first responders, and he has intimate knowledge of the local Jewish community.”
Mr. Dargan, the security director who preceded Mr. Torell, went to the federation in 2019 following a long career in the Bergen County prosecutor’s office. Now he is chief investigator in the county’s office of the inspector general.
While Mr. Dargan was a direct JFNNJ employee, Mr. Torell works for the Anzilotti Group, and that will allow the federation access to additional services and experts in the security firm’s network.
“Tim will work with all the Jewish institutions in town on improving their safety procedures and communication with law enforcement and addressing any safety and security issues as they arise,” Mr. Shames said.
There are approximately 80 synagogues and 50 schools and preschools, as well as other Jewish institutions, in the JFNNJ catchment area.
“First and foremost, when anti-Semitic threats and incidents happen, you need to be aware of them and liaise with the law enforcement involved to get an idea of whether this is an organized thing by a hate group or just a bunch of kids,” Mr. Torell said.
His multifaceted job also will involve training the staff of communal organizations — including the JFNNJ itself — on safety procedures, perhaps including lockdown drills, to enhance deterrence and be better prepared to react quickly if incidents do occur.
“I have had a couple of meetings already with the former security director, Jerry Dargan, who is a friend of mine, to get the lay of the land,” Mr. Torell said. He’s also met with Robert Wilson, chief security officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest.
“Bobby was chief of police in Teaneck, and we’ve been friends for decades,” Mr. Torell said. “It’s incredible how everything fit into place.”
Mr. Torell is from Brooklyn and has lived in Englewood for the last 12 years. He has meetings scheduled with shuls and schools throughout northern New Jersey over the coming weeks and can be reached at (201) 820-3978.