Brad Orsini, senior national security advisor of the Secure Community Network and former director of community security at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform during a Jan. 29 hearing entitled, “75 Years After the Holocaust: The Ongoing Battle Against Hate.”
Orsini’s remarks related to the 2018 attack at the Tree of Life building, as well as the continuing threat of anti-Semitism.
“On Monday, we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and International Holocaust Remembrance Day. As we paused to honor those killed in the name of bigotry and hate, we are acutely aware that those horrors do not only live in the annals of history. Anti-Semitism is alive and thriving. The nature of the threat facing the Jewish community is complex, varied and increasingly deadly,” said Orsini. “As we continue to see a rise in hate speech and physical assaults targeted at the Jewish community, it is vital for Jews across the country to be committed partners with law enforcement and to report any signs of hate.”
In Pittsburgh, a three pronged model — assess buildings and organizations; provide trainings and drills; track anti-Semitism threats and liason with local law enforcement — was instituted in January 2017 by the Federation. However, prior to Oct. 27, 2018, such tactics were not fully adopted by the community, noted Orsini: “After the shooting, that all changed. It not only changed in Pittsburgh, but in Jewish communities across the country.”
Moving forward, “clear steps” needed to be taken, such as increasing Holocaust education and awareness of other anti-Semitic acts, bolstering the process of reporting hate crimes, addressing domestic terrorism through greater funding and increasing support for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, said Orsini.
“I will never forget walking through that horrific crime scene on Oct. 27, 2018, and witnessing the destruction that one man caused because of hateful anti-Semitism,” he recalled. “I am certain that those who were in the building that day, to include our community members as well as first responders, will never forget the images they witnessed that day. In almost three decades of law enforcement, that particular crime scene is hard to describe. People were murdered simply because they were Jews gathered to pray. For a countless number of people, that image will never be erased. It cannot, nor will it ever be forgotten. We need to take any lesson learned from that day and teach the entire community to help safeguard from an anti-Semitic act with the potential to turn violent.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.