‘These peo­ple are try­ing to dam­age us psy­cho­log­i­cally’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - INTERVIEW PAUL GOLD­EN­BERG BY JENNI FRAZER

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”.

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