Jewish communities, US agencies step up ties in wake of threats
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Jewish communities, US agencies step up ties in wake of threats

Top US officials brief Jewish security professionals at Washington summit that comes, in part, following wave of JCC bomb hoaxes

Secure Community Network director Paul Goldenberg addresses a conference in Washington of Jewish security professionals on May 4, 2017. (SCN via JTA)
Secure Community Network director Paul Goldenberg addresses a conference in Washington of Jewish security professionals on May 4, 2017. (SCN via JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Senior Homeland Security and FBI agents have briefed Jewish security and community officials at a Washington summit aimed at better preparing for a wide-range of threats and challenges.

The summit ending Friday and organized by Secure Community Network, an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America, drew over 40 security directors from around the country as well as other Jewish officials.

A focus of the summit was the intensified relationship between Jewish communities and the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in recent months, particularly in the wake of a series of bomb threats that terrorized the Jewish community the first months of this year.

Both agencies deployed professionals “directly to communities in over 40 states,” SCN’s director, Paul Goldenberg, said in an interview.

In March, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs. Last month, the US Justice Department charged the teen with making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

The teen, whose name is under a gag order in Israel, has also been charged with calling in thousands of threats around the world.

An American-Israeli Jewish teenager, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, in a courtroom in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)
An American-Israeli Jewish teenager, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, in a courtroom in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

Top officials from the FBI and from Homeland Security briefed the conference, as did an official from the Belgian federal police. There were presentations on best practices for dealing with a bomb threat and trends in domestic terrorism.

White nationalists, Goldenberg said, were “starting to mimic techniques used by jihadists, leveraging social media” to pick out targets.

The conference conveyed recognition awards to FBI director James Comey and to the Department of Homeland Security. Accepting them were Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, and Elaine Duke, Homeland Security’s deputy secretary.

On Wednesday, when the conference began, Comey was testifying at a Senate hearing on his agency’s role in the elections – for which he has come under fire from both parties – and cited the FBI’s role in cracking the bomb threats case as an example of the agency’s success.

There were also sessions on campus security and on obtaining government grants to beef up security.

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