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Faced with rising anti-Semitism, Jewish communities step up security

By Phoenix Berman | KYW via CNN

PHILADELPHIA (KYW) — Nearly 60% of religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States are directed against the Jewish population, according to FBI data. Local organizations are working to make the Jewish community safer amid a spike in anti-Semitic incidents.

This week, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey (JFSNJ) announced the creation of its new security entity, JFED Security, LLC. The program will serve Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties, as well as eight other New Jersey counties and the entire state of Delaware. Its resources will include security force guards, vulnerability threat and risk assessments, and contingency planning.

“The Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey feels an enormous responsibility to our agency system, Jewish institutions and the region as a whole to expand this community safety initiative,” said Jennifer Dubrow Weiss, executive director of JFSNJ in a statement. communicated.

The JFSNJ is not alone in its efforts to better protect members of the local Jewish community.

In September, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia also expanded its safety initiative at centers of Jewish life, including synagogues and day schools in the area.

“As America faces a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic threats and incidents, Jewish community safety has never been more important,” said Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia President and CEO Michael Balaban, in a statement.

Jewish institutions experienced 589 anti-Semitic incidents in 2022, the majority of them targeting synagogues and Jewish community centers, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Last weekend, the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley held its first conference on anti-Semitism, co-hosted by the ADL. The event brought together four panels of experts, including elected officials.

Representative Susan Wild, who represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District, attended the conference stressing the importance of fighting anti-Semitism in the greater Lehigh Valley and across the country.

“This work must continue, every day, to root out the insidious anti-Semitism and hatred in our communities that threaten our values ​​as Americans,” Wild said.

Enhanced security protections come as the ADL says anti-Semitic incidents are at their highest level in 44 years nationwide.

In the recent ADL report, it was found that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 36% nationwide in 2022, with 3,697 recorded cases of assault, harassment or vandalism, marking the highest number never recorded since the group began its annual audit in 1979.

According to the ADL, hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded in the tri-state area, with New Jersey ranking third in incidents nationally.

Pennsylvania: 114
New Jersey: 408
Delaware: 11

In November, an 18-year-old Sayreville man was charged with alleged threats made against New Jersey synagogues and Jewish residents. The ADL notes that anti-Semitic incidents were at their highest that month.

Federal prosecutors say the suspect in the case, Omar Alkattou, shared an online manifesto “containing threats to attack a synagogue and the Jewish people.” But investigators ultimately don’t believe Alkattou had the wherewithal to carry out a specific threat.

Last summer, two South Jersey neighborhoods were the target of anti-Semitic flyers that littered sidewalks and people’s lawns. Brigantine was hit first, followed by Lindenwold. The flyers from both communities shared similar rhetoric and were found inside plastic bags filled with corn.

In a statement, Brigantine police called the bags and their contents anti-Semitic. They said the literature contained no threats but was consistent with anti-Semitic leaflets seen across the country at the time.

The ADL report found that known white supremacist networks coordinated to produce more than double the amount of anti-Semitic propaganda this year, with 852 incidents reported in 2022.

Despite the growing problem of anti-Semitism in the United States, less than two-thirds of law enforcement reported hate crime data to the FBI, marking a significant drop last year. There are more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, but the reporting of hate crime data by state, local, and tribal agencies remains voluntary.

Aryeh Tuchman, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, hopes the organization’s audit will strengthen action in the fight against anti-Semitic incidents.

“I hope the Jewish people in this country take these incidents seriously, strengthen the security of their institutions, but also remain proud and confident,” he told CBS News. “Our communities are strong and our people are safe. And these findings should be a call to action, but not a source of fear and alarm.

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