From: "Cleveland, Kyle E." <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Jan 15, 2004 10:01 AM
To: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Could you forward this to c-palsy?
The following blurb came across my desk this morning, and since so many of
our C-PALSY folks are Jewish I thought it appropriate to pass along. Since
my work addy is no longer valid on C-PALSY, could you forward the following
to the list with my regards?
In an unprecedented public discussion last week,
Jewish organizational leaders and counter-terrorism
experts declared that the American Jewish community
has not prepared adequately to protect itself from
Among those voicing concern at the January 8 briefing,
which drew 65 participants from 35 organizations, were
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the
Conference of Presidents of American Jewish
Organizations, and Stephen Hoffman, chairman of United
"We need to address the false sense of security in our
community," Hoenlein said at the meeting. After
Hoenlein spoke, Hoffman declared: "We haven't driven
the security concern into the everyday being of Jewish
living as it needs to be."
The meeting at the Manhattan offices of the American
Jewish Committee was held to promote the recently
created Secure Community Alert Network, or SCAN, an
electronic notification system designed to rapidly
alert Jewish organizations and installations in case
of a credible terrorist threat. The experts, however,
described the system as "only the first step" in
addressing the outstanding vulnerabilities of Jewish
The open acknowledgement of security shortcomings
represented a marked shift, according to several
officials of other Jewish organizations.
"This is new," said Yehudit Barsky, a terrorism expert
at the American Jewish Committee, who took part in the
meeting. "Before this, the leadership has always
internalized the concerns, but we realized that we
cannot continue operating as we were."
The decision to publicize the meeting and invite
members of the media was condemned by the
Anti-Defamation League's national director, Abraham
"I do not think that there is anything that has
happened recently that necessitates a crisis approach
to the issue of security," said Foxman, whose
organization has a long history of running security
programs and offering advice to Jewish institutions.
"We must be concerned not to hype it to where it
becomes counterproductive. Now people won't go to day
schools and won't want to identify with the Jewish
While organizers emphasized that the meeting was not
provoked by any specific threat, security experts in
attendance painted an alarming picture when describing
the general level of threat to the American Jewish
"Our community is one of the prime targets of the most
dangerous terrorist groups today," said Stephen
Pomerantz, former head of the FBI counterterrorism
unit and currently an adviser to American Jewish
groups. He added: "Our weakness has been our
unwillingness to think about this, and not listen to
what our adversaries are saying."
Hoenlein resisted the description of his comments as a
sudden shift, but acknowledged that his views had
changed during the past year after his organization
sponsored tests, which, he said, exposed that "we had
no capacity to deal with the real world as we face
At last week's security briefing Hoenlein and other
speakers also underscored the urgency of the meeting
by referring to the synagogue bombings in Turkey and
recent reports that Jewish buildings in America and
Britain have been under surveillance by suspicious
individuals. All these developments, the speakers
said, suggest that no synagogue or community center
should feel immune to the threat of terrorism.
Speaking off the record at the meeting, security
experts expressed dismay over what they described as
the general reluctance of Jewish organizations and
institutions to confront the terrorist threat. Later,
in interviews with the Forward, they restated their
views for publication.
"Osama bin Laden has explicitly said that he is after
Jews and Americans," said Barsky. "There hasn't been
any sense in the American Jewish community that people
need to do anything about this."
Barsky noted that almost no one showed up for her
presentation on local security threats that she
delivered at last year's UJC General Assembly.
Barsky and other security experts applauded the
creation of SCAN, which they say will raise awareness
of the threats facing the community.
"In the past, we had specific threats that we needed
to communicate with synagogues and community centers,"
said Mark Cohen, deputy director of the New York State
Office of Public Security, in an interview with the
Forward. "SCAN is a breakthrough in allowing for this
swift dissemination of information."
But other security experts said that SCAN falls short
by not providing any forum for collecting or analyzing
information about threats. The system also does
nothing to improve the level of physical security of
The relatively low level of security at Jewish
organizations was brought into stark relief by a
presentation at the January 8 meeting from Britain's
Community Security Trust. The trust is responsible for
securing the British Jewish community and has a force
of 3,000 extensively trained volunteers, who work in
concert with law-enforcement officials. The trust also
boasts its own intelligence department and a telephone
line for collecting tips on possible threats.
"We can't even compare ourselves to what the British
have," Barsky said.
France's main Jewish representative body, the French
Council of Representative Jewish Organizations, or
CRIF, has been organizing a similar volunteer
structure. In addition, in France and Britain, as in
much of the rest of Europe, synagogues are regularly
guarded with barriers and heavily armed police.
"Even a synagogue in Zagreb or Sofia is more protected
than a synagogue in New York," said a senior Jewish
communal official familiar with the situation, who
asked to remain anonymous.
David Pollock, associate executive director and
director of security for the New York Jewish Community
Relations Council, said he would like to see more
physical protection for New York synagogues, "but you
just can't do that in New York City."
At last week's meeting, the gap between European and
American security measures was attributed to the
longer history in Europe of attacks against
synagogues. But security analysts said that whatever
historical differences previously existed, the threat
level to American and European synagogues is now the
Referring to the extensive security at European
synagogues, Pomerantz told the Forward, "I don't want
to see us look like Berlin - not yet, not now." But,
he added, "if you asked me to do this analytically, I
don't see a dime's worth of difference in the security
Pomerantz, who also runs a private security consulting
firm, called for "a body to coordinate the access and
analysis of threat information." He also said that
physical security should be heightened at Jewish
Foxman, however, adamantly rejected comparisons
between the security threats in the Europe and the
"I think that's off the wall at this point. I don't
think we're at the point where we need this," Foxman
said. "I don't think we are in the condition that
Britain is, and I think it is irresponsible to adopt
their response to problems."
But Hoenlein said he hoped that the American Jewish
community might move in the direction of forming a
body like the trust in Britain.
"Law enforcement officials have been suggesting that
we utilize this as a model for our own security
measures, to get the community more involved,"
The most widely lauded element of the British program
is its use of Jewish volunteers for security patrols.
"In America people have generally used professional
security forces when they use anything," Pollack said.
"Volunteers can be much more effective than
professionals because they know who belongs."
Hoenlein gave no timetable for the development of
future security measures, but all the participants at
last week's meeting said that, before any progress
could be made, the community would have to examine
further the specific threat it is facing.
"We all have to do more so we can say we did our
part," Hoenlein said.