There are no known threats currently directed against the Pittsburgh Jewish community, according to Shawn Brokos, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Neither are there current threats directed at the Greater Pittsburgh area, she said.
The security update comes in the wake of the Jan. 6 violent riot at the Capitol building in Washington D.C., and despite news that the FBI is investigating several people from Southwestern Pennsylvania for their alleged roles in the incident.
“There are folks from the Pittsburgh area that were at the Capitol and are potentially being investigated,” Brokos acknowledged, adding that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are monitoring violent extremist groups with a focus on the leaders of those organizations.
While several people were seen at the Capitol protest and subsequent riot wearing clothing with anti-Semitic symbols or words, Brokos doesn’t think anti-Semitic ideology is rising. White power and neo-Nazi symbols have been seen at rallies and protests over the last few years, she said. The difference is, at the Capitol riot, images of the relatively small number of people wearing the anti-Semitic and racist symbols were magnified by the media.
“It garnered significant attention and it should because it’s absolutely repulsive,” Brokos said.
Although law enforcement is working to minimize threats from extremist groups, the danger of a lone wolf attack always exists, Brokos said. Because of that, the community is urged to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of seeing something and saying something,” Brokos said, “and if it is something threatening, please immediately call 911.”
The 911 system, which formerly was used to only report emergencies, has morphed into the primary reporting mechanism, she said. If someone is unsure whether they should call 911, Brokos, a former FBI agent, recommended reaching out to her and the Jewish Federation for guidance.
If a threat to the Pittsburgh Jewish community does arise, the Federation has a mechanism to contact the heads of all the local Jewish institutions, said Brokos. Those leaders would then reach out to their members, alerting them to the danger.
In the absence of any active threats, Brokos said, the community should continue to go about business as usual “and not let fear guide us.”
“Continue to engage in your daily activities,” she said. “Whether you’re attending virtual services or going to services, whether it’s going to our day schools or taking kids to our early learning centers or going to the JCC, we have a right to continue to live and worship. If we start changing our behavior out of fear, then then we are no longer empowered.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org