‘These people are trying to damage us psychologically’
THE DIRECTOR of America’s version of CST, the Security Community Network (SCN), says that the country’s FBI is conducting “an aggressive investigation” into the wave of hoax bomb threats that have been hitting Jewish schools, synagogues and community centres.
Paul Goldenberg describes himself as “a law enforcement professional”. He was the head of the hate crimes unit in the Attorney General’s office in New Jersey and, before that, was an undercover agent for many years.
So he is well placed to assess the level of antisemitism and how seriously to take the bomb threats — which were being reported during our conversation. “We don’t yet know who is responsible,” he said, “but the majority of calls appear to be an individual or individuals leveraging modern technology. This includes disguising voices and spoofing calls.”
It was not even certain, he said, that the calls were coming from inside the US. But he was confident that the FBI was “putting major assets into finding who is responsible” — and, moreover, was just as confident that “the person or persons, once caught, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”.
As well as the physical intent, he said, the aim is “to cause psychological damage to the Jewish community. But we are resilient. Nevertheless, technology has allowed the few to have an impact on the many.”
He added he did not know if the attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St Louis were likely to have been carried out by the same group behind the bomb threats.
SCN, which is modelled on CST, was founded relatively recently — in 2004 — but it is extremely thorough. Every Jewish communal institution has training and emergency plans, and Mr Goldenberg believes that American Jews are “as safe, if not safer, than the general public, because they are trained to be vigilant. We have a very serious approach to [guarding] our buildings and we also have a very mature relationship with law enforcement.”
“We are resilient”: Goldenberg
While Mr Goldenberg acknowledged that the latest “uptick in anti-Jewish hate crimes” was partly in response to “rhetoric” in the news, and partly “copycat incidents which keep me awake at night”, he was not prepared to blame this on the White House.
Even though the public rhetoric was “at fever pitch, I see the same level of dedication from the FBI and US Homeland Security. In my judgment, the commitment from the law enforcement agencies is unwavering.”
Mr Goldberg revealed for the first time that SCN had appointed a dedicated, full-time official to travel around US universities to ensure the security of Jewish students. “We are working with three organisations — Hillel, Chabad, and AEPI, the largest Jewish fraternity in the world. We are working very closely with all three bodies for campus security, because Jewish students must feel safe on campus.”
The SCN director, who has travelled extensively in Europe, paid particular tribute to CST’s founder, Gerald Ronson, and its former director, Richard Benson. He said CST’s relations with UK police were “exemplary”.