By Evan Bernstein, CEO of CSS

(Posted on June, 15 2020. Click here for original article)

The year is 2020: Jews and our beloved Jewish institutions remain the overwhelming target of religion-based hate crimes across the United States for the past 19 years, according to FBI data. Our society has made tremendous strides in the fight against anti-Semitism and hate crimes, pushing extremist ideologies to the far fringes and dark corners, but anti-Jewish animus continues to manifest itself online and in the public square, sometimes resulting in tragic events like those we witnessed recently in PittsburghPowayJersey City and Monsey.

I have spent a significant portion of my professional life pushing back against anti-Semitism across the United States.. I have held the hands of victims who have experienced hate firsthand in the aftermath of shootings and stabbings that have seared the notion of safety. These tragic events have placed a cloud of vulnerability on whole communities, leading me to push our elected officials and community leaders to use their bully pulpits as a stronger, more vehement force against hatred, all while working alongside all levels of law enforcement to ensure that bias attacks are investigated as hate crimes when appropriate.

Evan Bernstein stands with community members in Monsey, New York, after five people were stabbed and assaulted in November, 2019.

We also know that nearly two-thirds of Jews in the United States believe that they are less safe than they were a decade ago. Fifty four percent of respondents expressed that they had either experienced or witnessed an incident they believe was motivated by anti-Jewish sentiment, according to recent data from ADL, an incredible institution that I have been fortunate to have called home for nearly the past eight years.

Embedded in the fight against anti-Semitism while serving as a spokesperson and liaison for Jewish communities during and after incidents across the northeast, a call came in from David Dabscheck and Adam Sager, co-founders of The Community Security Service (CSS), to gauge my interest in leading CSS into a new era by significantly expanding its operations. Sager and Dabscheck are visionary leaders who created CSS in 2007 in the wake of Jewish communal fragility and the stark realization that our houses of worship, Jewish institutions, and community events were simply not secure. They concluded that community members themselves would have to start playing a key role in an effort to increase vigilance.

Along with intimate involvement from its active board of directors and lay leadership, the co-founders established a unique volunteer on the ground model to improve the security of the Jewish community that has protected a large volume of Jewish events and synagogue services, protected thousands of individuals, and saved organizations millions annually on security costs since its inception. By deploying trained community volunteers, CSS is able to provide a certain level of security that allows our institutions to reap the benefits of the eyes and ears of members of the community who are both more committed to safety, and have the cultural awareness to better identify certain out-of-place behavior and objects.

CSS has made an immeasurable difference in the realm of Jewish communal security and its presence across the country is nothing short of invaluable. While assessing the notion of today’s Jewish vulnerability, it’s important to remind ourselves that the vast majority of Jews feel safe and secure. However, there is much work to be done in the realm of stemming the vulnerability of America’s Jewish community.

The data keeps telling us about the volume and scope of anti-Semitic incidents. We know how acts of vandalism, harassment and violence have reared their ugly heads, which means that we need to redouble our efforts to protect our community. As CSS’s inaugural chief executive officer, I am humbled to lead an aggressive new expansion effort in this ripe moment, inspired by the organization’s critical mission.

We will be exploring future partnerships with other communal institutions, seeking new ways to increase our vast volunteer network that is at the core of our work and measured success, and establishing a high level security advisory board that will allow us to be privy to the best practices from top industry leaders. Simultaneously, we plan to create a nationwide and central office infrastructure in New York that will aim to fully address the most critical security needs of the entire mosaic of the Jewish community.

Our work will be driven by data so that any policy decision made, training tactic, or deployment of volunteers will be informed by evidence-based trends. I am tremendously excited to have the support of a robust board of directors and professional staff who equally share my passion and vision for a safer American Jewish life. Our ultimate goal is to be in the position to better equip Jewish institutions with the critical tools needed to create secure environments so that they can do their job of enriching our lives.

I look forward to you joining me and CSS as we embark on a new mission to tangibly improve Jewish communal security.

(Posted on June, 15 2020. Click here for original article)


Evan R. Bernstein

Evan is CEO of Community Security Service (CSS), an organization that proactively protects the people, institutions, and events of the American Jewish community