Expert advises the Jewish community on building ‘a culture of conscious security’

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Safety and security have always been concerns in the Jewish community and its organizations. With anti-Semitism and acts of hate and violence increasing in the U.S. and around the world today, the concern has never been greater.

Security expert Brad Orsini, of the Secure Community Network (SCN), travels the country to bring his years of expertise to Jewish communities. He was in Providence for several days during the week of July 19, presenting programs and active-shooter workshops for the community, Jewish organizations and law enforcement.

“Part of my role is to help communities with any of their security needs,” he said. “The goal is to bring awareness on the threat in the community, and what basic safety and security looks like and how we can build a culture of conscious security.”

Orsini is the senior national security adviser for SCN, the official safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America. It was formed in 2004 under the auspices of The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

From January 2017 to January 2020, Orsini was the first director of security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Before that, he served as a special agent for the FBI from 1988 to 2016.

In an interview with Jewish Rhode Island, Orsini said the security situation in the Jewish world is constantly evolving.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in threats to our community since 2017, starting with the bomb threats. Once Charlottesville happened, we saw another dramatic increase. So if you take Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City and Muncie in a 14-month period, we had violent attacks that killed members of our community. We’d never seen that before.”

He added, “What we see now, we see active shooters on the rise, not just in the Jewish community.”

When Orsini talks about security, he emphasizes training and preparation. The SCN works with Jewish communities on both. And he said he believes community members should embrace both.

“One of the goals of every Federation is to build a vibrant Jewish community, a resilient, safe community, and empower our community to not be afraid. We want our community all trained, all prepared. Awareness is power and leads to resilience. Awareness reduces anxiety,” he said.

The importance of training was made clear by the tragedy at Tree of Life synagogue, in Pittsburgh, in 2018. Orsini was the security director at the Pittsburgh Federation at the time, and firmly believes, “Training works. Training matters. The only thing we have under our control is preparedness.” He said that people survived because they were trained.

Active-shooter training absolutely helps, he said, adding that it should be offered two or three times a year because it’s a “perishable” skill.

Orsini said since we can’t read people’s minds and we don’t have control over what people think or do, “The best tool we have is to report every sign of hate or suspicious activity … if you see or hear something, report it.”

Locally, there are a number of options for reporting, including law enforcement and a community hate tracker (www.jewishallianceri.org/report-it).

“We want to build a community that’s proud to be Jewish, that’s not afraid to identify as Jews. Education and awareness will diminish the anxiety of the community,” Orsini said.

FRAN OSTENDORF (fostendorf@jewishallianceri.org) is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.