Community interest, education and communication are the keys to protecting Jewish Atlanta at a time of increasingly brazen incidents of anti-Semitism.
That was the message from Cathal Lucy, the retired Secret Service agent who serves as the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s director of community-wide security, during a telephone security briefing for Jewish Atlanta on Friday, March 10.
Community involvement in security “is what’s going to make us stronger,” Lucy said.
He cited the pilot eight-person volunteer security force that worked the Toco Hills Purim Parade on March 5 as an example of that involvement. Young Israel of Toco Hills member Darren Joel organized the group, and Congregation Beth Jacob member Ariel Siegelman, who heads the Draco Group security consulting firm, provided a day of training. Joel’s mother, Lynette, sewed volunteer security patches on the reflective vests the volunteers wore.
Federation is considering expanding the concept because, Lucy said, the community aspect of security is so important. That role can be as simple as saying something to authorities when you see something, he said.
Federation’s security committee, which meets quarterly and shares information daily with representatives of every local Jewish organization, encourages involvement and education and is a good model for each organization to follow at a time when more than 150 bomb threats have been made against Jewish organizations by phone or email since the start of the year, Lucy said.
One of those threats was phoned in to the Marcus Jewish Community Center on Jan. 9, and the center’s security director, Karl Hydrick, said the response was smooth because of security protocols and staff training.
The same was the case a year earlier when Atlanta Jewish Academy’s Upper School received a bomb threat, Lucy said. Day school leaders had talked about threat protocols two weeks earlier, and the woman who received the threatening call had a sheet on the response protocols by her phone.
Federation is constantly working to improve community security, Lucy said. Efforts include a pilot communication program under the auspices of the national Secure Community Network and grant-writing help for Jewish organizations applying for federal nonprofit security equipment funding. Since 2007, Jewish Atlanta has received nearly $3 million in such grants, including almost $500,000 split among eight organizations last year.
“Please know that we are working on a number of initiatives around this topic, around the topic of increased security,” Federation Chairman Joel Marks said. “Oftentimes you won’t know these are happening, and you won’t see them. Trust and know that they are out there, and they are happening.”