Shomrim Campaign Aiming To Fund Jewish Community Security

As the Minneapolis Jewish Federation launched an ambitious $40 million campaign at the start of COVID lockdowns, part of that effort – $12 million – was earmarked for community security in a joint fundraising effort with the St. Paul Jewish Federation.

With the COVID campaign no longer active, the security funding has spun off to its own campaign, which is called Shomrim, a Hebrew word for watchers or guards. The campaign comes as the Federations cite a tripling of reported antisemitic incidents nationwide from 2012-2021.

“The idea is to raise the money for an endowment to help on an annual basis to fund the community security endeavors,” said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, which takes the lead on community security. “It’s a great bi-cities initiative.”

The $12 million effort is broken down into two areas – $2 million for physical security improvements to community institutions, and $10 million for a community security program endowment fund. So far, more than $4.3 million has been raised, and there is funding available from a Jewish Federations of North America Livesecure grant.

According to the 2019 Twin Cities Jewish community population study commissioned by the two Federations, 81 percent of Jewish adults in the Twin Cities surveyed believed the United States had become less safe for Jews in the past year, and 21 percent had personally experienced antisemitism in the past year.

The two Twin Cities federations have come together in several areas of joint staffing and programming. Security was an easy place for the two organizations to come together.

“What happens – whether it’s on the east side of the metro region or the west side – it impacts all of us,” said Ted Flaum, the CEO of the St. Paul Jewish Federation. “Every institution is impacted by security. And what we don’t want is to have some institutions with really strong security that only makes those that don’t have strong security more of a target. We have to work together on something as vital as security.

“One challenge is making sure people are aware that we are meeting or addressing security needs in the community without raising an alarm. I think this is really an important initiative, and ideal for collaboration between the three organizations as well as all of our Jewish institutions.”

Hunegs said that some of what will be improved through the campaign include: Intelligence and threat analysis, security protocols, trainings, facility assessments, grant guidance, and equipment/technology. He declined to get into too many specifics about how each would be used because of the nature of the campaign. 

The endowment also pays for the salaries of Rob Allen and Patrick King, the JCRC’s director and associate director of community security, respectively.

“We hold it in trust with [the Federations’] communities,” Hunegs said. “It is our work to do in conjunction with all of our institutions in the community.”

Flaum said that the area covered by the campaign extends to Minnesota and the Dakotas, which are part of the JCRC’s remit.

“Obviously, most of these institutions are in the Twin Cities, but the JCRC is responsible for security in all those places and has strong relationships with law enforcement without those states,” he said. “We want the community, obviously, to be safe. But we also need people to understand the need when they’re asked to support this initiative.”