By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD — Stewart Bromberg, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, had a speech all prepared for the Federation’s major donor event at MGM Springfield on Oct. 29.
Instead, he spoke from the heart about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh two days earlier, in which 11 congregants were murdered during Shabbat services.
“It was a good evening, but of course the tone changed a little bit from what it was intended to be,” Bromberg said. “However, I acknowledged the events that happened, I talked about what we need to do now and how we need to move forward and how we need to have a positive impact on the future of our community, our country and the world.”
One way to do that – and keep the Jewish community safe in the meantime – is through the Secure Community Network (SCN), an initiative of Homeland Security and the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
According to its website, The Secure Community Network is a non-profit organization founded in 2004 as a central address serving the American Jewish community concerning matters of communal safety, security, and all-hazards preparedness and response.
SCN operates a full-time threat and information-sharing center to monitor and report on threats and security events impacting the American Jewish community.
SCN then sends notifications to Jewish agencies that have signed up to be on the service. The Jewish Federation of Western Mass. is one of those agencies that has signed up on the network.
“Sometimes daily, sometimes more than once a day, we get notifications of things that are going on around the world and locally that we need to be aware of,” said Bromberg, who is setting up meetings with the heads of local Jewish agencies throughout Western Massachusetts to get the top professional and lay leaders of each agency signed up for the notifications.
“When an alert comes up that I feel this community needs to be aware of, I will hit a button and everyone that we have signed up will automatically get an email and all the details,” he explained.
The daily alerts have included events like these sent on Nov. 7: swastikas found painted in Binghamton, N.Y. on Election Day, and White Nationalist flyers distributed in Brookline; and on Oct. 27, the event in Pittsburgh.
With times the way they are, Bromberg has been focused on the Jewish community’s security since he arrived in July. One of the first things he did as CEO was review the risk assessments that were begun 18 months ago after the Springfield JCC received a bomb threat.
“I actually started my second day looking at the [risk assessment report],” he said. “There were risk assessments for every single Jewish organization in our community, there is a risk assessment for the entire community as a whole, and then there are suggestions about how to alleviate some of that risk. Since then I have been reviewing all of this material and I have started working on coming up with a plan to implement — what will best for the community and what we can afford to implement. At the same time we are also searching for other funding resources.”
Local law enforcement agencies have been generous in offering the Jewish community their services.
After the community gathering on the Sunday after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, members of both the Springfield Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police approached Bromberg, “offering any help they can give us. They can provide us with training that we might want for any of our agencies, and they have also told us that if we feel the need for any security we should just call them and they will be there. There is no charge for their security assistance at all.”
Bromberg did call to tell the police about the Federation event at the MGM, held just two days after the shooting.
“I spoke to them about our event at the MGM, which they weren’t aware of, and they said, ‘We will be there.’”
That extra security gave Bromberg and others in the community some peace of mind.
“It went well, people had a good time,” Bromberg said. “MGM upped their security level as well. I felt that all of our guests were very safe.”