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July 21, 2021 4:13 pm
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Connecticut Jewish Community Steps Up Security With Hire Amid Rising Fears of Attacks

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

West Hartford, Connecticut. Photo: Ragesoss / Wikimedia Commons

As Jewish communities nationwide respond to a rise in antisemitic harassment and violence, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford has for the first time hired a regional security director, turning to a retired local law enforcement officer for the role.

Working in cooperation with the Secure Community Network, the office will be held by former Canton police detective John Colangelo, who will aim to improve security at synagogues, community centers and schools in thirty-eight communities, according to a report by The Hartford Courant.

Beyond the national trend, local Jewish leaders pointed to regular reports of antisemitic threats and vandalism in central Connecticut.

“We’ve seen an explosion of antisemitism, including rhetoric from both the right and left,” said Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford Federation President and Chief Executive Officer David Waren. “The threat environment facing the Jewish community is more significant than some would say it’s ever been.”

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In one of the most publicized recent incidents, a University of Connecticut student was arrested and charged with a hate crime in April after daubing a swastika near the school’s Hillel building during the Passover holiday.

Elsewhere in the state, a June 22 bomb threat was called into the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, forcing it to evacuate the building and suspend summer camp for the day.

Michael Masters, who founded the Secure Community Network in 2004, said Colangelo’s appointment should lead to more awareness about how and when to come forward after an attack.

“When we see one these [security positions] start,” he told The Courant, “there’s a 78 percent increase in incident reporting. We tell the community it’s vital to report them so we can identify patterns. It’s absolutely important we report the errant [hate] phone calls or swastikas.”

Continued Masters, “Our primary goal is to empower, not scare the community.”

“The threat environment is more complex and dynamic today than it’s ever been. In December of 2017, only 7 percent of Jewish communities in the US had access to a professional security director like John. Today, 65 percent do.”

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