Jewish Leaders Need to Lead

American Jews have special vulnerabilities in a terror attack. They comprise less than 2% of the American population and are mostly concentrated in major urban areas, which have already been cited as prime targets for attack.

Rachel Neuwirth,

Rachel Neuwirth
Rachel Neuwirth
The tragic events following Hurricane Katrina continue to command our national attention in America, understandably so. At the same time, we must not lose sight of other immense dangers still facing our nation. There also needs to be an evaluation of the role of American Jewish leaders in responding to these ongoing dangers.

History offers important lessons that need to be learned. Unfortunately, it is too often the case that, "What we learn from history is that we do not learn from history." After 9/11, we discovered that many prior warnings were unheeded, overlooked, and underestimated. And, astonishingly, none of our high officials who bungled their responsibilities were relieved of their positions. Some lower level whistleblowers, in attempting to do their patriotic duty, found themselves in trouble for embarrassing their superiors.

After 9/11, the Office of Homeland Security was created and generously funded. We were told that we were now prepared for a variety of emergencies. Four years later, Hurricane Katrina struck. Again, we are discovering that warnings were issued during the past decade. Those warnings went unheeded and we were unprepared to act in time.

We recovered from 9/11, but at a high price. We can expect to recover from Hurricane Katrina, too, but we will pay another high price. But now we could be facing the greatest danger of all, from which recovery may not be possible.

A long series of reports have been warning about a possible nuclear attack inside America by Osama Bin-Laden and Al-Qaeda. These reports warn of the coming together of critical elements that comprise an immense threat. These elements include: Al-Qaeda?s acquiring a supply of nuclear weapons; their being able to smuggle them into America; their inserting trained sleeper agents into America; their ability to detonate those weapons simultaneously inside major cities; and the absolute will to use them at a time of their choosing. Their purpose would not be to just deliver another 9/11-type blow. Rather, it would aim to inflict immense casualties, cripple our infrastructure and reduce American status as a world power.

Is such an apocalyptic event actually possible? Can we even contemplate it objectively? When imagining such dire prospects, the human mind may go into deep denial and even express anger at the messenger -- all as a human defense mechanism. Nevertheless, we must not flinch from objectively facing the question. If the danger is real, then we must maintain a clear head and act in time.

Americans should keep informed about this threat to our national security. The latest in a series of informative reports was posted September 8, 2005, on Links to numerous prior reports are provided at the end of the article. These reports include various governmental and private information sources that explain just how Al-Qaeda has been able to mount such a dire threat to our country.

A timely response to this threat is especially urgent because of reports suggesting that Al-Qaeda may be contemplating an attack during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins October 4th. All this shifts the focus of response to include the American grass roots level. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated how much valuable help came from ordinary American citizens who responded spontaneously and often were way ahead of government, which failed badly. We still lack massive citizen preparations in advance of a future national emergency.

The public needs to be organized, trained and prepared in local communities. Homes need to be stocked with emergency supplies. Local leaders need to be assigned in each neighborhood. People need to know what to do, whom to contact and where to go in any emergency. Emergency communications need to be in place in advance. People with special needs need to be identified, as well as able-bodied people who will be trained and available when needed. This would make the entire nation one, integrated, well-prepared civil defense camp. The purpose of all this is to prepare to absorb any blow, minimize the casualties, avoid chaos and improve the chances for recovery.

Wherever possible, the local preparations could be more easily organized within ethnic and religious communities. Local religious and community leaders already know their constituents and how to contact them. The unaffiliated would also be organized separately; minus the affiliated population, that would present less of a task.

There are compelling reasons why the American Jewish community should lead the way in local organizing among their own constituents. American Jews have special vulnerabilities in a terror attack. They comprise less than 2% of the American population and are mostly concentrated in major urban areas, which have already been cited as prime targets for attack. In any attack, Jews would therefore suffer proportionally far more than almost any other ethnic or religious community. Also, Jewish history is one of long-standing persecution, including in Israel, which must live under constant threat of terror attack in every part of that country.

This increased vulnerability should motivate and energize a timely response by American Jewish leaders who comprise the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Their example would be especially valuable in encouraging a similar response among all other ethnic and religious denominations in America. The potential benefits to American security would be huge. Unfortunately, the American Jewish leadership has failed to act in this regard.

This failure of American Jewish leaders is all the more disappointing because it contrasts sharply with other recent events directly involving Jews. At least ten American Jewish organizations are collecting funds for Hurricane Relief. It was reported that some 5,000 Jews were among those forced to evacuate the areas struck by the hurricane. Israeli Jews have already delivered 80 tons of essential supplies to America and offered to take displaced American college students to Israeli universities. This prompt Israeli response comes from a tiny nation suffering her own severe hardships due to unrelenting attacks from her Arab enemies.

The 9/11 tragedy and Katrina are warnings. We cannot afford to be unprepared for a nuclear 9/11.