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Community Leaders Forge Interreligious Body to Push Back Against Rising Tide of Hate

FOR RELEASE ON APRIL 28, 2021 

Contact: 

David Robbins | (917) 472-9982 | cssmedia@thecss.org 

Community Leaders Forge Interreligious Body to Push Back Against Rising Tide of Hate 

Coalition established representing full diversity of New York’s faith-based communities 

New York, NY, April 28, 2021 … In response to acts of hate that continue to afflict faith-based communities across the country, three national and New York City-based organizations have convened to create The Interfaith Security Council” designed to share best practices in communal security, speak out in one voice against violent extremism, and help ensure the safety and well-being of all faith-based communities. 

The council is facilitated by The Community Security Service (CSS), the leading national Jewish volunteer security organization in the United States, the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, Inc. “The GodSquad,” a Brooklyn faith-based organization comprised of experienced clergy focused on lessening neighborhood tensions and acting as a liaison between their communities and law enforcement, and the Community Security Initiative (CSI), a program created by the UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY)

that helps guide institutions to enhance their security, access government security funding and build enhanced communications systems. 

The three entities have created the council — representing the full diversity of the city’s religious communities with more than 20 faith-based organizations participating to date — in the wake of the FBI’s latest report which found that 20 percent of hate crime victims were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias, accounting for 1,650 offenses reported by law enforcement. More than 60 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes were deemed anti-Jewish, and concerning figures detailing anti-Islamic, anti-Catholic, anti-other Christian and anti-Sikh incidents totaled nearly 24 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s latest guide on mitigating attacks on houses of worship, institutions face a “baseline of persistent targeted criminal activity and that the specific threat of targeted violence may be increasing.” 

Additionally, the council will initiate ongoing dialogue with a specific focus on how it can collectively address the rising vulnerability of Asian-Americans on the heels of soaring hate crimes against this group, particularly in New York City.

“The data and trends we are witnessing first hand on incidents against houses of worship and faith-based communities tells us vividly that we have an intractable problem, warranting us to forge partnerships that go beyond optics,” said Evan R. Bernstein, CEO and National Director of CSS, and founding co-chair of the council. “For far too long, religious institutions and individuals have suffered from countless hate crimes which have sent shockwaves of vulnerability throughout communities. All of us on the council know intimately that we cannot combat hate alone, and it is incumbent upon us to measurably improve our security on the ground.” 

The council was established so that together, these groups and communal leaders will have a forum to regularly share their expertise in strengthening communal safety and security, and have the opportunity to enhance relationships with law enforcement. The potential of future attacks has likewise put additional strains on the capacity of clergy, staff and volunteer leadership to secure institutions requiring disproportionate time and resources to provide a sense of safety to their congregants. 

“Sadly many tragic incidents have singled out communities of faith. This has unnerved our members who are now fearful in an environment they once saw as safe and sacred,” said Pastor Gil Monrose, President of the 67th Precinct Clergy Council. “We are confident that by creating this comprehensive forum to focus on how best to keep our congregations safe, we will be able to push back against the worrisome rise of religious-based hatred and mitigate future occurrences.” 

Leadership from the broad spectrum of community organizations and religious institutions will develop an ongoing forum to share lessons learned in house of worship safety and best practices in training staff and volunteers in security routines and protocols, pool resources on mitigating threats of manifestations of extremism, and more forcefully use their bully pulpits to speak out in unison against hate crimes and violent incidents motivated by anti-religious animus. 

“The practice of community relations has always served as a significant and concrete approach towards moving the needle forward on many issues,” said Rabbi Bob Kaplan, Director of the Center for Communal Leadership at JCRC-NY. “We are very much looking forward to building new bridges, while at the same time, developing a roadmap where we can collectively work towards the singular goal of protecting our respective communities and institutions.” 

The council, which is primarily funded by the UJA-Federation of New York, is part of an ongoing effort, spearheaded by The CSS’ Mr. Bernstein and CSI’s Executive Director Mitchell D. Silber, to substantially improve the safety and security of Jewish communal institutions across the greater New York area. In September 2019, the organizations signed a memorandum of understanding that is currently synchronizing field operations, coordinating deployments of volunteers, sharing intelligence and conducting joint training. 

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About The Community Security Service (CSS): 

The CSS is the leading Jewish volunteer security organization in the United States. Founded in 2007, the CSS was the first organization to bring to the United States a mindset long held by sister communities around the world, that protecting Jewish life and Jewish way of life starts with taking ownership of our own security. The CSS is focused on training volunteers in basic security procedures to help protect their institutions and events across the country. Through programs developed by foremost industry security experts, and tailored to various levels of interest and ability, volunteers learn to identify suspicious activity and prevent and respond to potential threatening situations. The CSS success also stems from their solid communal partnerships and established relationships with

governmental agencies and law enforcement. To date, the CSS has created a national network of over 5000 trained volunteers, which help to protect hundreds of synagogues and events each year. Visit www.thecss.org

About Community Security Initiative (CSI): 

CSI is a new program created by the UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) as a $4 million+ plan to help secure local Jewish institutions in the New York region. CSI serves as a security liaison between Jewish institutions and city, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in this capacity. Visit www.ujafedny.org/get-info/security-resources

About the 67th Precinct Clergy Council Inc.: 

The 67th Precinct Clergy Council, Inc. “The GodSquad” is a faith-based organization comprised of clergy focused on lessening neighborhood tensions and acting as a liaison between their communities and law enforcement. Recently, The GodSquad established Clergy For Safe Cities (CSC), a national coalition to support clergy-based gun violence prevention initiatives and implement a collective, comprehensive, community initiative to decrease the involvement of young people in crime and gun violence in their city. To date, CSC has trained 500 faith leaders on successful clergy-based models and best practices. Visit www.67clergycouncil.org.