Jewish groups team with security network to protect campuses
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Jewish groups team with security network to protect campuses

'There was a recognition that conditions required a collective and collaborative approach,' new director of the Secure Community Network says

University of California Berkeley junior Adah Forer speaks to a student in front of a pro-Palestinian demonstration on campus. (Courtesy)
University of California Berkeley junior Adah Forer speaks to a student in front of a pro-Palestinian demonstration on campus. (Courtesy)

WASHINGTON — Four national Jewish organizations involved in advocating for Jewish university students have launched an initiative to coordinate on security with the national umbrella for Jewish security.

Michael Masters, the incoming director of the Secure Community Network, the security arm of national Jewish community organizations, told JTA this week that the Jewish Federations of North America, Hillel International, Chabad and the AEPi fraternity were jointly cooperating on the initiative.

“There was a recognition — the initiative is just over roughly a year ago — that conditions on campuses and student organizations required a collective and collaborative approach to deal with Jewish security issues,” he said.

He said one of the triggers for the cooperative venture was a May 2016 protest of the screening of a pro-Israel movie at the University of California, Irvine. Protesters kept those attending the film from leaving the room.

The Hillel vice president of communications, Matthew Berger, confirmed the arrangement.

“Hillel International believes the safety of our students and professionals is of the utmost importance,” he said in an email. “Given that both Jewish institutions and college campuses have been targeted for violence in recent years, we recognize the need to provide our campuses with the expertise to better protect their facilities and programs. By partnering with SCN, we are able to offer Hillels a direct resource to assess their facilities and prepare for potential scenarios.”

SCN and its partners coordinated with law enforcement during the “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August; some of the marches took place on the University of Virginia campus. There was similar coordination more recently when Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, spoke at the University of Florida, which has the largest Jewish student population outside of Israel.

The initiative also leads campus student organizations in training in how to respond if there is an active shooter and on how to secure facilities.

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