By now, you have probably heard about Thursday's arrest of a suspect in the recent wave of threats to our nation's Jewish institutions, including Federation's Maitland Jewish Community Campus this past January.
The news came as a terrible shock to all of us on the campus, as I am sure it did to you, when the suspect turned out to be an American-Israeli teenager. The situation is almost unimaginable: a Jewish kid sitting in his basement has sent an entire nation's Jewish community into a tailspin. The magnitude of the damage -- financial and psychological -- done to our institutions is staggering. And add to this all the law enforcement resources that have been dedicated to protecting us and finding him!
In the absence of credible information, all we can do is ask "why?" What moved him to commit these despicable acts? How can somebody have so much hate toward his own people? Can anything be done to stop it from happening again? We may never know the answers to these heart-wrenching questions. As I turned to the Torah to gain some insight, I read in this week's portion that Aaron told Moses regarding the sin of the Golden Calf: "You know that the people are disposed toward evil." Note that he was referring to the Jewish people. It is a sobering and unwelcome thought, but there it is. It's not the first time a Jew has turned against his people, and probably not the last. My outrage is mixed with a sense of shame.
I also suspect that after the news broke, some asked: Does this mean that the work we've done in the past few months was a waste and we can let down our guard?
The answer is a definitive "no." While the fear and anxiety felt throughout our community may subside, we must remain vigilant. The arrest of a suspect may put an end to the threats perpetrated by one man, but it does not weaken our commitment to the safety and security of the thousands of men, women and children who are the lifeblood of the Maitland campus.
Here at the Federation, we'll continue to do what we set out to do more than 18 months ago: implement campus security improvements recommended by federal and local law enforcement, and work closely with JFNA's Secure Community Network to ensure we are fully apprised of and prepared for any new threats that may come.
Throughout this process -- and especially in the past three months -- members of our community have been a great source of strength for Federation and the other campus agencies. We cannot thank you enough for your generosity in supporting the Maitland Campus Security Fund. The fund has enabled us to free up Federation dollars to pay for some security upgrades, many of which you already see when you visit the campus (and many of which are taking place behind the scenes). These efforts are spearheaded by our Campus Security Director Andy Brennan, and we are very fortunate to have Andy on our Federation team!
But there is much more to do. The past few months, while stressful, have strengthened our resolve. The threats may have stopped for now, but our work has not and will not. Your safety is too important for us to let down our guard.
As this important work continues, our Campus Security Fund remains open for business. The short- and long-term projects we are implementing will require significant resources. When you give to the fund, you help to ensure that we have the financial resources to remain proactive rather than reactive. It's an investment in the agencies that call our campus home. It's an investment in the people who work, learn, play and socialize on our campus. Please show our community that we remain vigilant by supporting the security fund.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,