On November 3, 2022 at 3:06 p.m., the FBI released the following tweet:
The FBI has received credible information of a broad threat to synagogues in NJ. We ask at this time that you take all security precautions to protect your community and facility. We will share more information as soon as we can. Stay alert. In case of emergency call police.
Naturally, this tweet caused panic and distress within our communities and congregations, especially due to the mass implementation of the message without any forewarning to law enforcement or Jewish Federations, who were being called upon to give further guidance. Additional tweets were disseminated at 3:39 p.m. explaining that the FBI are taking proactive measures with this warning, and at 6 p.m. where they stated they were working with both their law enforcement and faith-based partners (who were now in dialogue with the FBI).
Only at 11:03 a.m. the following day did the FBI tweet that the source of the threat had been identified and was no longer a danger to the community. By this time there was upheaval within the Jewish organizations of Greater MetroWest; some had closed their doors, some had hired extra security, some early childhood centers had shut for the time being, while others were not allowing children to play outside.
Since then the FBI has made clear that the individual in question was found and underwent a psychological evaluation. He was not planning on targeting any facilities within the GMW area and the threat has so far been mitigated. Needless to say, this event has triggered debate on the degree of safety within our communities and what is needed to enhance the security of frequented Jewish facilities.
Federation’s Chief Security Officer, Robert Wilson, along with local Jewish leaders and representatives from the ADL, recently attended a meeting with the FBI to ascertain what transpired that day and how such events could be communicated to the public in the future. Primarily it was acknowledged that the sequencing of communications was not optimal and that an enhanced relationship was needed with the Jewish community to ensure that information would be communicated efficiently and to the correct people so as not to cause undue panic. It was determined that, going forward, the FBI will not use Twitter, or social media in general, to broadcast this type of sensitive information. In fact, threats of this level will first be released to law enforcement, Jewish Federations, and other Jewish security partners, which will then be disseminated to the community. It is therefore of utmost importance that you register to be part of the GMW ALERT SYSTEM, so that you receive accurate and timely information in reference to any potential threats to our community.
At the meeting they also discussed what a sudden call to action looks like to us as a community from a security perspective, and, above all, recognized that every Jewish organization (from synagogues to early childhood centers, schools, community centers and social services, etc.) needs baseline security procedures for day-to-day operations, as well as enhanced procedures in the event of a potential threat. These could include hiring extra security guards or off-duty police officers to act as a deterrent. A vital part of these procedures for any Jewish institution is communication with your local law enforcement to seek their support when an adverse situation arises.
Federation’s Community Security Initiative stresses that adhering to the concept of “People, Procedures, and Equipment” will dramatically aid in ensuring your organization remains as safe as possible not just when there is a threat but at all times. We strongly suggest that you:
- Contact us, your local law enforcement, or a private security company and make an appointment for a vulnerability risk assessment of your facility every 24 months. This will ensure that any areas that are lacking/need updating in physical security/equipment are identified and corrected. These risk assessments are also the first steps in applying for Federal and State security grants.
- Create security procedures and plans relevant to your facility/organization and share them with the correct people, like your local law enforcement.
- Drill periodically – you need to make sure that your plans and procedures are appropriate, work for your surroundings and that people who work/frequent your facility know about them!
- Take advantage of training, either through us, your local law enforcement, or a private company. We provide Active Threat Training, Situational Awareness Training and Usher and Greeter Training.
Ultimately, we are here to support you! Once again, please register for the GMW ALERT SYSTEM.