In its first partnership with a faith-based community, the Department of Homeland Security is working with Jewish organizations to expand awareness of suspicious behavior.
The “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign will distribute posters and customized announcements in synagogues, Jewish community centers and related agencies across the country.
Its thrust will be to educate the Jewish community to be on the alert for suspicious behavior and to report the community’s concerns to local law enforcement. The campaign’s rollout has already begun and will continue over the next several months.
"One of the main goals of the campaign is to encourage people to be vigilant, not to be fearful, but to be vigilant," said John Cohen, a senior Homeland Security official.
"People know what belongs in their community, they know when things look out of place. We’re not looking for the public to make the determination of whether something is terrorist-related."
The partnership is based on the recognition that the community is a target for threats, Cohen said.
Two men were arrested last month in connection with an alleged plot to attack Manhattan synagogues. Meanwhile, three of the four men convicted last year of plotting to blow up synagogues in Riverdale in 2009 are slated to be sentenced Thursday.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met June 10 at the White House with Jewish leaders to discuss the new partnership and ways to expand Jewish vigilance.
She mentioned the threat facing the Jewish community from radical Islamists and right-wing extremist groups Napolitano understands "very well what links these two groups is deep-rooted hatred," said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
The visuals and imagery for the campaign material was created specifically for the Jewish community with the help of the Secure Community Network, an initiative funded by the Jewish Federations of North America. One poster depicts what appears to be an abandoned backpack in a hallway leaning against a table with an ornate Star of David on it.
Posters and related material will be distributed to communities through local Jewish federations. The Department of Homeland Security will absorb the cost.
The department is looking to expand the program to other faith-based communities, including evangelical Christians and Mormons. The agency already has started partner campaigns with a number of organizations, including Amtrak and local transit agencies, and within all federal buildings under federal protection.
Paul Goldenberg, national director for the Secure Community Network, said the program is a way to "raise the bar of awareness."
"The ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign empowers this community to directly participate in their own safety," Goldenberg said. "This program focuses on better protecting places where Jewish people come to worship, where they meet and where they socialize."