|In 2007, my wife and I brought our five kids to Israel for their first time. Upon entering a shopping mall, we stood in a line to walk through a metal detector and to show our bags to a security guard. One of my confused young kids asked, “Why are they looking for shoplifters on the way into the mall?”
Israel’s constant heightened attention to security has been foreign to most Americans. Sadly, not anymore. After last weekend’s horrific murders in Pittsburgh, it is now foremost on all of our minds.
In the first few days after Pittsburgh, Jewish (and interfaith) communities everywhere held vigils. We shared feelings, read prayers, and stood in solidarity. In our area, thousands of people attended events throughout the community, and our interfaith friends stood with us in solidarity. We are so grateful to all who stand with us as we stand with Pittsburgh. We are also thankful to all of our elected officials offering thoughts and prayers.
We also appreciate our friends in Israel. It is especially comforting during these times of strained relations (I owe you an article on this) to know that we have their support during times of tragedy. I just returned from Israel yesterday, and every news show on every channel has been leading off with the Pittsburgh crisis since Saturday.
It is so comforting to know that we are not alone. We have friends around the world, in our own interfaith community, in our synagogues, and in Federation. We have each other and we rely on each other during these times.
So now what?
Every level of law enforcement around the country has been working around the clock on our behalf. Our NYS Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit has pledged to meet with every synagogue in our area to review security protocols, and local police remain the best on-the-ground option to discuss local needs and possible threats.
The Secure Community Network is a national homeland security initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. In conjunction with the FBI, they are encouraging the “See Something, Say Something” campaign for all Jewish communities.
This afternoon, we had a meeting with our local FBI in the Federation offices.
What can you do?
First, know that Federation has been in direct and constant contact with Jewish organizational leadership to keep them up to date on all recommendations coming from law enforcement to keep us safe in our public spaces. When things calm down a bit, which hopefully they will soon, we hope to have a more public event on safety and security.
Second, #ShowUpForShabbat. Thousands of Jews around the world are planning to show up in synagogue this Shabbat as a sign of solidarity with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and to send the message that love triumphs over hate. Jewish Federations and the American Jewish Committee are co-sponsoring this program.
Third, always stay vigilant. “Kol Yisrael Arevim zeh la-leh.” “We are all responsible for each other.” We cannot rely on law enforcement alone because they can only be effective if they know what is going on. We all have a responsibility to speak up if we see anything suspicious, whether in person or on social media.
Fourth, those wanting to contribute to Pittsburgh’s fund for the victims of terror may do so here.
May the memories of those lost always serve as blessings. May the injured heal, and may we see peace.
Robert R. Kovach
President & Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY
The Golub Center
184 Washington Avenue Ext.
Albany, NY 12203-5306
(518) 783-7800 ext. 226