US Jewish groups set up task force to track anti-religious violence
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US Jewish groups set up task force to track anti-religious violence

Move comes as Trump’s Homeland Security Department disbands an intelligence unit that tracks right-wing violence

A menorah is tested outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in preparation for a celebration service at sundown on the first night of Hanukkah, December 2, 2018 in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. A gunman shot and killed 11 people while they worshiped at the synagogue on October 27, 2018 at the temple. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A menorah is tested outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in preparation for a celebration service at sundown on the first night of Hanukkah, December 2, 2018 in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. A gunman shot and killed 11 people while they worshiped at the synagogue on October 27, 2018 at the temple. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two former homeland security secretaries will co-chair a task force convened by national Jewish organizations aimed at tracking anti-religious violence.

The task force, announced Tuesday, is a joint project of the Anti-Defamation League and Secure Community Network, a Jewish self-defense initiative.

Its co-chairs are Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary under President Barack Obama, and Michael Chertoff, who held the job under President George W. Bush, and who is Jewish.

The initiative arose after the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue complex in October that killed 11 Jewish worshippers, the worst anti-Jewish attack in US history.

Michael Chertoff, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, is interviewed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on its first day of trading, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“The task force will develop best practices to increase coordination and cooperation related to incident tracking, information sharing, reporting and addressing threats,” a joint ADL-SCN release said.

The Trump administration’s Homeland Security Department recently disbanded an intelligence unit that tracked right-wing violence, drawing criticism from groups that track hate crimes. The alleged Pittsburgh killer was a white supremacist who blamed Jews for supporting an “invasion” of migrants into the United States.

“This move defies logic,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO and national director, about the closing of the Homeland Security branch focused on domestic terrorism.

“The current administration has been chipping away at our nation’s ability to address a deadly serious national security threat: right-wing extremism. To simply disregard this threat, especially after what we witnessed in Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Charleston, and even overseas in Christchurch, New Zealand, could put lives at risk.”

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