One of the pressing questions that faces many Jewish community leaders overseeing security for their facilities is: How can I get timely and reliable information about threats, security concerns and changing conditions in our area?
Fortunately for shuls, schools, and Jewish organizations in their area, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has come up with a solution that can benefit all local groups.
Noting “the significant increase of antisemitic activity in our area as reported by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the ADL recently, and the increasing difficulty to communicate with large numbers of people,” the Jewish Federation’s Director of Jewish Community Security Tim Torell stated: “We need to communicate, especially in times of an emergency or crisis, with hundreds of Jewish communal security stakeholders at once and in a matter of moments. Sending out emails with over two or three dozen recipients gets blocked by most spam detection software and prevents my communications from getting through to the people who need it most.”
To address both the rising need for timely communication and the technological impediments, the Jewish Federation—working with Secure Community Network (SCN), the national security arm of Jewish Federations of North America—introduced in September a new Security Alert mass communication system for all Jewish institutions in Bergen County and parts of Hudson and Passaic Counties. The Security Alert system, which operates on the Everbridge mass communication system, will send out messages with three labels—either General Notices, No Threat Incidents or Critical Incidents.
The Security Alert system went live on September 22 and already has attracted nearly 300 subscribers. The organizers hope to attract many more.
The Jewish Federation suggests that each Jewish group register three to four members of their organization who are prepared and authorized to handle critical and timely information. They recommend that at least one of each group’s appointed contacts have the authority and means to communicate with their entire community and knows their group’s security plan.
Torell is ideally suited to his work in the Jewish Federation and to head up this new initiative. In November he retired as a detective captain from the Englewood City Police Department in Bergen County after 41 years of service. He has served as an instructor at the Bergen County Police Academy and as the department’s municipal counterterrorism coordinator. He oversaw all criminal investigations in the city, which included bias crime investigations. Torell was awarded the prestigious NYPD Detective Bureau pin for his work with that department’s “Torah Task Force” and he traveled to Israel with a law enforcement delegation in 2016, where he interacted with the Israeli intelligence community, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli National Police.
“Implementing the NNJ Alert system means that all 122 Jewish organizations in our community can receive communication about security in real time,” said Jason M. Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. ”And, just as important, the system will prevent the dissemination of false information, which can often wreak havoc during a crisis. The priority now is for organizations to sign up.”
“CSS works closely with Federation and SCN on security incidents that are reported in real time by our CSS synagogue teams; and as a result, our partnership with the Jewish Federation is a force-multiplier for the security of our community,” said Deena Seelenfreund, New Jersey regional manager of The Community Security Service. “Community members are the eyes and ears. We believe a real-time security alert system such as the Federation’s NNJ Alert System, now in place, empowers community members to report and to be alerted to suspicious activity and incidents. The NNJ Alert System will be critical in keeping the community informed, prepared and as protected as they can be. With collaboration, information and knowledge comes strength, power and security.”
For questions on the Security Alert system, please contact Jewish Community Security Director Tim Torell at [email protected] or 201-820-3978.
To learn more about this service, please see: https://jfnnj.org/nnj-alert-system/
By Harry Glazer