In an effort to substantially improve the safety and security of Jewish communal institutions across the greater New York area, the Community Security Initiative (CSI) and the Community Security Service (CSS) announced an operational partnership that will synchronize field operations, coordinate deployments of volunteers, share intelligence, and conduct both joint training and joint tabletop exercises. CSI is a joint initiative of UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY).
The partnership was officially formalized in advance of the approaching High Holidays because Jewish institutions remain a significant target for acts of violence and hate crimes. Two recent law enforcement bulletins alerted communities to a significantly increased threat risk. The first, issued last month by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security, reinforced the persistent threat against Jewish communities. The second was an annual pre-High Holiday briefing by the N.Y.P.D.
“Jewish communities in North America have already been subject to violent and deadly attacks over the last two years, often by lone actors who provided little warning and spent hours in online spaces steeped in violent anti-Semitism,” said Mitchell D. Silber, executive director of CSI and former senior N.Y.P.D. counterterrorism official. “Moreover, the trends and data that we track suggest that we remain in a heightened threat environment. As a result, we need strong allies and the CSI-CSS partnership is an exemplar of our joint commitment to intensify our level of vigilance and to protect our communities and people.”
CSI and CSS are two of the leading Jewish security groups in New York, and the new partnership will cover Jewish institutions in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester, as per the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding.
Since its inception in early 2020, CSI and its team of veteran security professionals have conducted almost 400 site visits or virtual meetings with Jewish schools, synagogues, JCCs, museums, and summer camps as well as coordination meetings with local police and government officials in the greater New York City region. These interactions have enabled CSI to enhance physical security at all these institutions by establishing a baseline security profile on each institution’s current security status, ensuring their connectivity with local law enforcement, and by providing timely assistance in conducting assessments to enable federal and state security grant applications. Moreover, CSI has begun to roll out elements of an emergency communications security system spanning eight counties.
CSS’s unique volunteer on-the-ground model continues to train and empower members from their respective communities to protect their local synagogues, schools, and community events in cooperation with law enforcement. These teams are professionally trained to identify and respond to suspicious activity, thereby addressing a potentially threatening situation long before it might escalate into a serious incident. Since its inception in 2007, the organization has protected thousands of individuals and saved Jewish organizations millions annually on security costs with the help of trained volunteers. Since May, CSS has employed sweeping changes to its curricula and has revamped its security training and protocols that will enhance the services it provides at an even higher level.
“The Jewish community has made tremendous strides in recent years in adapting to protect itself despite the clear rise in anti-Semitism,” said Evan Bernstein, CEO of CSS. “As threats to Jewish communities continue to increase, binding our two organizations together to produce an even bigger shield is a major step we can take to heighten our protection. With the breadth of knowledge and industry experience that CSI brings to the table — coupled with our ability to deploy trained volunteers to protect facilities nationwide — we are confident that such a collaboration will notably improve our security.”
In June, CSS announced the appointment of Mr. Bernstein as CEO and the addition of global security and counterterrorism experts to its professional staff, along with an expansion in operations, leadership, and funding from UJA-Federation of New York, The Paul E. Singer Foundation, Rowan Family Foundation, Jeffrey Talpins, The Price Family Foundation, and significant contributions from other anonymous individuals and foundations.
In December 2019, UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY announced the creation of the Community Security Initiative led by Mr. Silber to enhance the security of the Jewish community and its institutions in greater New York. CSI is supported in partnership with the Paul E. Singer Foundation, Carolyn and Marc Rowan, Jeffrey Talpins, and several other foundations.
“It speaks volumes of the importance of this unified mission to improve our communal security when two entities like CSI and CSS partner in such a manner,” said Carly Maisel, a member of the board of directors for both CSI and CSS. “We are looking forward to seeing firsthand how the pooling of our resources and expertise will have a positive impact on the ground.”
In 2019, the Jewish community in the United States experienced an unprecedented rise and all-time high in anti-Semitic incidents as tracked by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) with more than 2,100 incidents, a 56 percent year over year increase in physical assaults, and five fatalities.