Remarks to the the Knesset Aliyah, Absorption & Diaspora Affairs Committee

Remarks to the the Knesset's Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee delivered on October 27, 2020, during a special session to mark National Aliyah Day as well as remembering the victims of the anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburgh, Monsey, San Diego and Jersey City.

I’m Eric Fingerhut, President & CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America. I am proud to represent the 146 Jewish Federations and nearly 300 network communities who are individually the largest Jewish communal and charitable institutions in each of their communities and are collectively the largest Jewish communal organization in North America.

Prior to serving the Jewish Federations of North America, I served as a member of the Ohio State Senate and the United States House of Representatives, as well as Chancellor of Ohio’s system of higher education and as CEO of Hillel International, the largest Jewish student organization in the world. I was in the Ohio Senate on 9/11, and as Chancellor I led Ohio to secure college campuses after the attack on Virginia Tech. At Hillel, I led our response to the growth of BDS and anti-Semitism on college campuses.

For the Jewish Federations of North America, October 27th is not just a day to remember the eleven kedoshim who lost
their lives in what was the worst anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States. Rather, October 27th will always be for us both a day of mourning and a reminder of the need for our community to be vigilant and proactive in building and maintaining our safety and security. What happened once can happen again, and what happened in peaceful, welcoming Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania can happen anywhere. Indeed, it has happened again — in San Diego, in Jersey City, in Monsey and Crown Heights, and of course elsewhere around the world.

The safety and security of all citizens, especially as they congregate in their houses of worship and other communal gathering places, is first and foremost the responsibility of government. Our Jewish Federations are active at the local, state and provincial, and federal levels in both the United States and Canada, ensuring that law enforcement officials understand the unique threats to Jewish facilities, that we have the necessary relationships with law enforcement, and obtaining needed public funds to help with the increasing costs of securing our facilities.

But we cannot rely on government alone, and we do not. We have a responsibility to protect our fellow Jews, to enable them to worship, to congregate, and to send their children to schools and camps without worrying for their physical safety.

Jewish Federations have accepted this communal responsibility. In partnership with our Secure Community Network, the professional organization we created to provide the necessary expertise, training, and communications operations, we are in the process of building a high performing security infrastructure for every single Jewish community, large and small.

The Federations that represent our largest Jewish communities have been engaged in this work for some time. They raise and spend millions of dollars per year to field increasingly sophisticated local security initiatives that work with their local synagogues, day schools and all other Jewish institutions to assist them in building and maintaining critical security programs. Many also have their own patrols that monitor the campuses where their communal facilities are located. These communities must receive our full support.

Thank you for including two of the most distinguished leaders of these communities, my colleagues Jeff Finkelstein of Pittsburgh and Jacob Solomon of Miami, in this meeting. It is especially important to give Mr. Finkelstein our support on this anniversary, and to be reminded of his extraordinary valor in leading his community through that tragedy.

But the security threats we face will not appear only in places with large Jewish populations. Therefore, the Jewish Federations of North America will lead the campaign to support all our communities – large and small - and make sure that the full security infrastructure that is needed is completed as quickly as possible and at the highest possible standards.

We are also working to ensure that all Jewish communal organizations with significant expertise are collaborating to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community. I am particularly pleased to see that Jonathan Greenblatt, the President and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, is speaking at this important meeting. ADL’s work in tracking and studying anti-semitism and violent extremism is indispensable. We are grateful for their many contributions to the  physical safety and security of our communities.

The Jewish community in North America is strong, well-organized and extremely capable of protecting its fundamental interests. We are committed to building flourishing Jewish communities that are healthy, safe, caring, welcoming and inclusive, educated and engaged, active in the broader civil society and deeply connected to Israel and the Jewish people around the globe.

I do not want any member of this body to think that the Jewish communities of North America are sitting back and letting events happen to us. Rather, we are actively rising to build the security infrastructure that will allow us to continue to grow and flourish, just as Israel has demonstrated that securing your citizens enables national growth and prosperity.

May peace and prosperity, safety and security, be the future for all the Jews in the world.