MetroWest hosts security briefing

MetroWest hosts security briefing

Attorney general leads officials in reviewing concerns over attacks

New Jersey’s new attorney general was the featured speaker at a high-level security briefing for law enforcement officials and Jewish leaders at the Aidekman Jewish Community Campus in Whippany.

About 90 people attended the Jan. 25 event, eager to review Jewish community security in the wake of the arrest of a 19-year-old man in the Jan. 11 firebombing of a rabbi’s home in Rutherford.

The event marked the launch of a special version of the Department of Homeland Security’s national “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, this one tailored specifically for the American-Jewish community.

The Jewish Federations of North America and its affiliated Secure Community Network have partnered with DHS to help apprehend culprits or prevent incidents like the Rutherford one and three other recent attacks on synagogues in northern New Jersey.

Last week’s briefing was cosponsored by the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central New Jersey, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation of Greater Clifton-Passaic, and the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations.

Attorney-general Jeffrey Chiesa led the array of state and local law enforcement personnel from Essex, Morris, Union, and Bergen counties who attended the event. Also invited were staff members and leadership from Jewish organizations and synagogues across the region.

Chiesa said it is hard to fathom what goes on in the mind of a suspect like Anthony Graziano of Lodi, charged in the attack on the home and synagogue of Rabbi Nosson Schuman in Rutherford, and a second attack on a temple in Paramus.

“That isn’t a matter of self-expression,” Chiesa said. “It’s terrorism.”

He praised Jewish leaders for their response to the recent attacks for “not coming in banging their fists,” but trusting those in charge to act appropriately. He stressed that any such attacks will be taken seriously “all down the line,” and that the necessary resources will be committed to dealing with them.

‘Culture of security’

Paul Goldenberg, SCN national director, said the Aidekman campus was chosen as the setting for the Jan. 25 launch of the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign because of the “long recognized” partnership between MetroWest leaders and the law enforcement community. He described the community as a place “where things are done right.”

Opening comments were given by CRC chair David Lentz and State Association vice president Mark Levenson.

The campaign will be rolled out in another 11 locations across the country, and then in other states over the next few months. It will involve video and on-line security training for 120 Jewish communities partnered with SCN, as well as the distribution of informational posters and brochures.

Speakers stressed the difference between awareness and fear.

“We’re building a culture of security, not fear or paranoia,” Goldenberg said.

He said members of the local community are the people best equipped to recognize odd behavior or strangers behaving suspiciously, and to act as “force multipliers,” augmenting the work of law enforcement personnel.

“With knowledge and understanding comes security,” Goldenberg said.

Drew Lieb, deputy director of the division of operations for the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, urged people to use its Suspicious Activity Report line. He said the “Fort Dix Six,” arrested in 2007 for a planned attack against personnel at the base, were caught after one of the potential attackers brought a suspicious video to a store for development, and the clerk called the SAR line.

Tips to the line — 866-4-SAFE-NJ or 866-472-3365 — he said, are immediately shared with the FBI’s joint terrorism task force in Newark.

“We need to hear from you; we can’t be everywhere,” said Hanover Township Chief of Police Steven Gallagher.

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