American Jewish groups are closely following events unfolding in Gaza, and there is some concern that terror organizations will seek to retaliate against Israel through a strike at Jewish targets in the US and around the world, The Times of Israel has learned.
Officials at the Secure Community Network (SCN), an organization that coordinates between American Jewish groups and US security agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, say they are keeping a close eye on developments in Gaza and their possible effect on the safety and security of American Jewish institutions.
Paul Goldenberg, national director of SCN, has reportedly told officials of the Jewish Federations of North America that “SCN is very busy right now.” Contact between US security agencies and Jewish groups has been taking place on a “consistent” basis, with exchanges of real-time security alerts and information.
Jewish communities around the world have, in the past, been the target of terror groups seeking to harm Israel and Israelis. There is also concern that Israelis abroad could be targeted.
At the start of the current round of fighting in Gaza, Hamas warned that Israel had “opened the gates of hell” by killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, while a July terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, that killed five Israelis and wounded 32 more, is believed to have been perpetrated by Hezbollah.
Briefings taking place this week at SCN “include information on how Federations and other Jewish institutions can raise the bar on their security, and maintain a high degree of vigilance at a time when potential security threats are possible,” according to JFNA spokesman Joe Berkofsky.
The discussions between SCN and Jewish institutions are “a precautionary measure,” according to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents. “There hasn’t been any specific warning,” he noted.
SCN is a joint initiative of JFNA and the Conference.
While they look to their own security, American Jewish groups have also scrambled to help those in Israel who have been hurt or displaced by the rocket fire from Gaza.
“The areas of most immediate need are the most vulnerable, the elderly and the severely disabled,” according to Michael Geller, spokesman for the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). “These are people who are in their homes. Some people can’t get to shelters and are staying in place.”
In Kiryat Malachi, 30 families who were displaced when their building was damaged by rocket fire have been given temporary accommodations. While schools and local government have largely shut down in Israel’s southern towns, the JDC has mobilized staff to deliver hot meals to the homes of 500 elderly residents of the region who rely on JDC day centers for regular meals.
Meanwhile, JFNA announced Thursday it was opening a $5 million Israel Terror Relief Fund together with the Jewish Federations of Canada, the Union for Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The fund will go toward programs of the Jewish Agency, JDC, the Israel Trauma Coalition and World ORT, to “deliver immediate services and assistance on the ground throughout the South,” including “trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters, and potentially other initiatives, including bringing children in the strike zones out of harm’s way.”