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image of speaker and audienceOn Nov. 7, 2018, the Westchester Jewish Council held its quarterly security roundtable, a working meeting for security officers and officials from synagogue and community centers throughout the county concerned with the safety and welfare of their members. More than 80 attended. While the group has been meeting since 2001, this night had more urgency. It was less than a week after the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 congregants died. Council member Elizabeth Lampert, event co-chair, opened the meeting with a moment of silence and explained that 11 empty chairs in the front of the room represented those who lost their lives. The Council, as the Jewish community’s first responder, facilitates communications and best practices of security among member organizations. 

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr., as the county’s chief law enforcement officer, addressed the group, recommitting the resources of the District Attorney’s Office and its Westchester Intelligence Center to helping secure all sites where residents gather “whether in an urban church, a community mosque, a suburban synagogue, a movie theater, a club or a yoga studio.” Scarpino stressed, “We should not accept hate perpetuated against our innocent brothers and sisters for their religion, race, or the color of their skin.”

Andrew Ludlum, Acting Director of the Westchester Intelligence Center (WIC), with his deep experience as an FBI agent involved in counter-terrorism, delivered a step-by-step outline of how to assess security issues at properties, secure those sites, and monitor possible threats. He explained the WIC’s mission in relation to security in Westchester County. It is to collect, analyze and disseminate actionable intelligence regarding threats and other safety issues to Westchester County law enforcement and to provide community briefings, like this one, regarding public safety to organizations within the county.

Only a few hours later, another mass shooting rocked America, an attack on a local club in Thousand Oaks, California. DA Scarpino issued this statement:

“Just last night, I met with the Westchester Jewish Council at their security roundtable as they continue to find the best possible ways to secure their synagogues and community centers. I spoke about the viciousness of mass violence in America, which strikes our places of worship, our schools and the places we gather to relax and have fun. Last night, just hours later, a gunman killed 12 people at a bar and dance hall in suburban California. Young lives were lost and so was the life of a career law enforcement officer – Ventura County Sherriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus. Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families, friends and colleagues. I said last night, we are all traumatized by these unspeakable acts. But, our trauma should not freeze us. Instead, it should make us more vigilant.”