Tragically, it seems that almost weekly there are reports of random shootings and attacks across the United States. In 2014, a shooting at the Jewish Community Center near Kansas City left three dead, and a targeted attack in 2015 at the Monroeville Mall injured three, proving that neither Pittsburgh nor the Jewish community is immune.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is opting to be proactive in taking measures to protect its members and institutions and just announced the hiring of a soon-to-be retired FBI official as its first director of Jewish Community Security, a newly created position.
Bradley W. Orsini, who has worked for the FBI for 28 years, most recently as the supervisory special agent, crisis manager and training coordinator for the Pittsburgh Division, will retire from the law enforcement agency at the end of the month. He will assume his full-time position with the Federation on Jan. 3.
The idea to create the new position had its genesis at a Federation board meeting earlier this year, according to Jeff Finkelstein, the organization’s president and CEO. At that meeting, the board was addressed by Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, the homeland security initiative founded by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in 2004.
Following Goldenberg’s presentation, the Federation assembled a committee headed by Andrew Stewart and comprised of representatives from various communal organizations and congregations. It considered the rationale behind other Jewish communities employing security directors, such as in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Miami. The committee agreed that Jewish Pittsburgh would also be well-served by coordinating its security efforts.
“We want to be better trained and prepared as a Jewish community,” Finkelstein said. “Hardening the security of a building is one thing, but training is another.”
Orsini “came with unbelievable recommendations from the FBI,” Finkelstein added. “His job will be to work with all of the institutions to make sure that the right procedures are in place.”
Orsini is ready to hit the ground running to train community members how to react in a crisis, he said.
“We’re really looking to keep people safe,” Orsini said, “and to enhance the security that is already in place, not just the brick and mortar, but the community as a whole.”
Orsini currently does active shooter training for the FBI, and plans to bring that type of training to the Jewish community. He will reach out to each individual institution to assess particular security needs, he said. “I will make myself available to the 40,000 members of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh to make them feel safer.”
While Orsini could not speak about any specific threats to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, he noted that “the FBI is constantly evaluating information to see if there are threats.” In his new position, he will partner with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to assess any such threats, which might include anti-Semitic graffiti, threatening letters and cyber threats.
“I’m beyond thrilled to come to work for the Jewish Federation when I retire from the job I absolutely love and be able to do basically the same thing for the Jewish community,” Orsini said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
A fund within the Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation granted funding for the new position.
“Our community Jewish organizations have many appropriate measures in place, but there is definitely more that a security expert can bring to these efforts,” Stewart said in a prepared statement. “From the experience of other communities around the country, we know that our Jewish community would benefit from the coordination, training and professional support for security initiatives that someone in this role could provide.”
Orsini received his bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from Pennsylvania State University in 1985 and served in the Marine Corps, reaching the rank of captain. During his previous work in Pittsburgh, he grew the Southwestern Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition and was awarded the FBI’s Law Enforcement Agency Directors Award in 2005 for outstanding investigative results in the area of public corruption in Western Pennsylvania. In 2015, he was awarded the Western Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Agency Directors Award for leading the FBI’s response to several mass casualty critical incidents, including the Franklin Regional Senior High School stabbing and the Monroeville Mall shooting.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org