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Threat to New Jersey Synagogues Mitigated After FBI Response

A Facebook message from Teaneck Township Manager Dean Kazinci on Friday, November 4 confirmed that the “broad threat” made on New Jersey synagogues, which was reported by the FBI the previous afternoon, has been mitigated. Kazinci participated in a security briefing early Friday morning along with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, FBI Newark Director Jim Denehy, State Attorney General Matthew Platkin and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan, in which the FBI identified a “radical extremist” with “hate towards the Jewish community,” and assured that “he no longer poses a threat to the community.” Several other statements from local leadership corroborated this information.

The new FBI intelligence comes as a relief following the credible threat, which was released to the public from the FBI Newark Twitter account on Thursday, November 3. The FBI’s official statement asked synagogues in the area to “take all security precautions to protect your community and facility,” though no other information was disseminated by the bureau.

The Twitter Alert stated: “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.”

Shortly after this report, the FBI sent out another tweet stating that the warning was a “proactive measure” while investigations are underway. Murphy tweeted that he has been in touch with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and FBI Newark, and that the situation is being “closely monitored.” He added that he is working with local law enforcement “to ensure that all houses of worship are protected.”

“I have been in touch with the @NewJerseyOAG, @njohsp, and @FBINewark regarding a credible threat to synagogues in NJ. We are closely monitoring the situation and are working with local law enforcement to ensure that all houses of worship are protected.

—Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) November 3, 2022”

Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) shared with The Jewish Link that it’s “definitely unusual for the FBI to make such a publicly aggressive statement” regarding a threat. “What we’re focusing on now is making sure that all synagogues in northern New Jersey are on high alert and are prepared. We’re also working with local law enforcement which is increasing its patrol on synagogues … this is the right move, and the right decision.”

Gottheimer continued, “We certainly need to make sure that our synagogues are aware that law enforcement at all levels is on top of this.”

Evan Bernstein, CEO of Community Security Service (CSS), which provides training for security volunteers across the country, told The Jewish Link that the FBI notified the organization before the threat was reported publicly.

“Seeing the information that went out publicly is quite concerning, and the fact that they reached out to us before they alerted everyone else was good. We were able to disseminate information quickly to our volunteers and prepare them,” Bernstein said. “For us at CSS, we always keep our volunteers on high alert, and when something like this happens, it’s about doubling down on best security practices and using the training that these teams have already received. This also means taking more diligence around the synagogue and at daily minyanim until the threat has been cleared.”

Nathan Diament, executive director of Orthodox Union Advocacy, noted similarly in a statement: “We are calling on communities to have heightened awareness and to reach out to their local enforcement for security support.”

Local law enforcement has chimed in to notify the community of the increased security due to the threat. Said the Bergenfield Police Department via Facebook: “We are aware of the threats to New Jersey synagogues, and while there is no specific implication to Bergenfield, additional patrol has been implemented around houses of worship to ensure that our community remains safe.” Chaverim of Bergen County shared with The Jewish Link that it has 30 members on patrol in the area as well.

In a message posted on Facebook, Teaneck Township Manager Dean Kazinci stated that the Teaneck Police Department has dispatched additional visible patrols in the areas around houses of worship and schools, “out of an abundance of caution.” He recommended that all local residents “remain alert and vigilant,” and “take security precautions to help protect the community.”

On Thursday evening, November 3, Gottheimer held a briefing with the Bergen County Prosecutor and Sheriff along with local mayors and pulpit rabbis from across the district. He shared in a statement that he planned to pray at a local synagogue, later clarified as Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, to show that “antisemitism will not win.”

“The best thing that people can do is to keep their eyes and ears open and be aware of their surroundings,” Bernstein explained. “If your gut is telling you that something is not right, reach out to law enforcement or someone who could help. No one understands their own synagogue better than a congregant.”

“New Jersey has the second highest rate of antisemitism in the country,” Gottheimer explained. “What’s happened in the last few weeks with Kanye West, Kyrie Irving—this is what happens when public figures feed antisemitic messaging to people.”

Bernstein expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “There is such a normalization of antisemitic rhetoric. These comments [from public figures] definitely stir the pot, and all it takes is one individual to act out on hating Jews. It’s a shame … we need to be very diligent and aware, and we can’t have our heads buried in the sand.”

By Channa Fischer

 

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