With the surge in anti-Semitism across the United States in the last few years, many Jewish communities are increasingly turning to security experts to keep local institutions and members safe.
The Jewish community in Connecticut is the latest example.
With the hiring of retired Canton, Connecticut police detective John Colangelo as its first security director, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford is aiming to focus on improving security at synagogues, community centers, schools and other potential targets, reported the Hartford Courant.
The community has experienced frequent vandalism and threats, but thankfully no actual violence. Given that Jews in other parts of the US have been the victims of violence, they felt ramping up security was paramount.
“We’ve seen an explosion of anti-Semitism, including rhetoric from both the right and the left,” said Federation CEO David Waren. “The threat environment facing the Jewish community is more significant than some would say it’s ever been.”
Colangelo will spend part of his time finding security weaknesses in buildings, and acting as an advisor to rabbis, congregations and others on safety procedures, while also running training programs on how to handle emergency situations.
He will also be part of the Secure Community Network, a non-profit group that works on security issues for North American Jewish communities.
Michael Masters, the founder of the Network, told the Courant that most violent attackers begin by committing acts of anti-Semitic vandalism or threatening phone calls, making it essential to report even minor incidents.
“Our primary goal is to empower the community, not scare the community,” Masters said.
He added that the situation today is much more challenging and dangerous than even a few years ago.
“In December of 2017 only 7 percent of Jewish communities in the US had access to a professional security director like (Colangelo). Today 65% do,” he said.
According to the ADL, more anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the US in 2020 than in any year since they began keeping records of attacks in 1980.
The ADL has reported multiple incidents in Connecticut so far this year.
In one of the most shocking reports, multiple anti-Semitic incidents occurred at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in March during Passover weekend.
Graffiti featuring swastikas was discovered on the building opposite to UConn Hillel on March 27 and on March 28. Anti-Semitic slurs were screamed at a Jewish student wearing a kippah who was holding a box of matzah. On March 30, more swastika graffiti and a Nazi SS logo were discovered on a UConn building.
Only months later, in late June, a bomb threat called into the Jewish Community Center in Woodbridge, Connecticut forced the evacuation of 300 campers and other young people. Police concluded the phone call was a hoax. No bomb was found.