Homeland Security Discusses Antisemitism, Security, More in Area Visit

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Jewish leaders in the Cleveland area meet with members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 8 at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood. CJN Photo / Kaitlyn Finchler


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

Antisemitism, resources and security were some of the topics discussed at a March 8 roundtable with leaders in the Cleveland Jewish community and members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood.

Led by Federation Senior Vice President Oren Baratz and Rebecca Kagan Sternhell, principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement and acting executive director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, the roundtable served as a platform to address the needs and worries of Jewish Americans in the Cleveland area.

“It’s very well talked about now, the rise in antisemitism, even before Oct. 7 (2023),” Marc Ashed, assistant vice president of external affairs and director of government relations at the Federation, said at the roundtable. “But since, there’s been an explosion and I think we’ve seen (and) felt it in very different ways than we previously had.”

shed said it’s “very shocking” to see the lack of consequences for antisemitic language and the failure of it to be called out on.

“It’s been a very eye-opening time, according to the ADL ... a 400% increase (in antisemitism) since Oct. 7,” Ashed said. “In addition to that, nearly 1,300 rallies, or these public demonstrations, that have had clear pro-terror or clear incitement against Jewish communities involved in it, as early as Oct. 9, (2023).”

Dan Zelman, chair of the Federation’s board of trustees, said 10 years ago the Federation spent less than $1 million on community security, and now it’s spending over $5 million.

Federation Trustee Jason Wuliger, among others at the roundtable, said they either have or know others whose children now have to limit their college searches and applications to schools that openly protect Jewish students. Multiple people in attendance also said they increased security at their homes, using landlines and installing cameras.

Jim Hartnett, the David P. Miller director of community-wide security of JFC Security, LLC – Federation’s security provider – said when he started in his position over 10 years ago, there were only a handful of people in his position nationally, and now there’s over 100.

“JFC Security now has 60 highly trained officers – all with significant law enforcement experience, including former police chiefs and FBI officers,” Hartnett said at the roundtable. “We’ve got seven mobile patrol vehicles out in our community and a network of sophisticated cameras being monitored in a centralized location.”

Baratz directed the conversation toward having a balance of having security without creating a “fortress mentality” or causing panic.

“There’s that very difficult challenge of leadership, both at institutional levels and law enforcement levels to identify (antisemitic speech), act responsibly on it and respect in ways that are new,” Ashed said. “(Law enforcement doesn’t) know where the line is. They don’t know where the boundaries are.”

Prior to the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, released by the White House in May 2023, Sternhell said Homeland Security has “redoubled” its effort to speak to Jewish communities in America.

“(Today, we’ll look at) how we might be able to better support everyone in this,” Sternhell told the CJN. “Whether that’s looking at campus law enforcement, looking for other federal partners that we can bring to the table (and) understanding what we can do better to help make sure everybody can feel safe and repel and push back on a lot of the hate that we see arising within the U.S.”

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