Jewish Groups and Security Network Launch Joint Initiative to Protect U.S. Jews on Campus

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White nationalist groups marching at the University of Virginia
White nationalist groups marching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Aug. 11. 2017.Credit: Strinnger/Reuters

Four national Jewish organizations involved in advocating on behalf of Jewish university students have launched an initiative to coordinate their efforts on security with the national umbrella organization for Jewish security, the Secure Community Network.

Michael Masters, the incoming director of the Secure Community Network, the security arm of national Jewish community organizations, told JTA this week that the Jewish Federations of North America, Hillel International, Chabad and the AEPi fraternity were cooperating on the initiative.

“There was a recognition — the initiative is just over roughly a year ago — that conditions on campuses and [with] student organizations required a collective and collaborative approach to deal with Jewish security issues,” he said.

He said one of the triggers for the cooperative venture was a May 2016 protest of the screening of a pro-Israel movie at the University of California at Irvine. Protesters prevented those attending the film from leaving the room.

The Hillel vice president of communications, Matthew Berger, confirmed the effort. “Hillel International believes the safety of our students and professionals is of the utmost importance,” he said in an email. “Given that both Jewish institutions and college campuses have been targeted for violence in recent years, we recognize the need to provide our campuses with the expertise to better protect their facilities and programs. By partnering with SCN, we are able to offer Hillels a direct resource to assess their facilities and prepare for potential scenarios.”

The Secure Community Network and its partners coordinated their response with law enforcement during the “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. Some of the marches took place on the University of Virginia campus. There was similar coordination more recently when Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, spoke at the University of Florida, which has the largest Jewish student population of any college outside of Israel.

The program also leads campus student organizations in training how to respond if there is an active shooter and how to secure facilities.

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