Pittsburgh’s first director of Jewish community security is expanding the scope of his services, providing preparedness and emergency training to the local Muslim community as well as to Jews.
Former FBI official Bradley Orsini has been raising safety awareness and offering emergency training in the Jewish community since he was hired by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh at the beginning of 2017, his position financed through a fund within the Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation.
On Friday, March 30, Orsini conducted his first “security/active shooter/situational awareness training” at a mosque for the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh (MAP) since assuming his position.
Neither Orsini nor the Federation is charging MAP for his services.
“Security for the Jewish community does not rely on the Jewish community alone,” explained Adam Hertzman, director of marketing communications for the Federation. “It requires cooperation and openness between Jewish institutions and lots of other organizations, first responders and government officials.
“Training faith communities such as the Muslim community is a win-win because it improves their security awareness and practices while fostering the cooperation that can be critical in early identification and communication of threats to the Jewish community as well.”
Orsini had met MAP president Saima Sitwat about a year ago, when she was doing research for an article she was writing for publicsource.org about security concerns in local faith communities.
Sitwat explained the motivation for writing that article.
“Right after the [presidential] election — not just the Muslim community — it looked like everyone was scared,” Sitwat told the Chronicle, noting in particular the many threats that were made against the Jewish community at that time.
There has been a recent marked increase in religiously motivated hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims. Last year, the FBI released data showing that Jews were the chief target of religiously motivated hate crimes, and that despite constituting just 2 percent of the American population, Jews were subject to 54.4 percent of those types of attacks.
But the “greatest increase in religious-based crimes was those against Muslims,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Crimes against Muslims increased 19 percent from 2015 to 2016, and Muslims were the victims of 24.5 percent of religiously-motivated crimes, the next highest total after Jews.
With more than 100 children in MAP’s Sunday school and worship services held each Friday night, Sitwat described a “big security concern” in her community.
After learning what Orsini was doing for the Jewish community, Sitwat asked if he would speak with her community, located in Gibsonia.
“Our objective was to have Brad come out now and talk to us from a preventative point of view,” Sitwat said.
The decision was made at Federation “that of course we are going to offer training and presentations on what we are doing in the Jewish community for any religious organization, because we want everybody to be safe,” Orsini said.
Security for the Jewish community does not rely on the Jewish community alone.
Orsini presented an introduction to security tactics at MAP, “how we do it in the Jewish community,” he said, including “pre-incident, post-incident, situational awareness, see something-say something, and a full view of what we’re doing to secure the Jewish community — taking that blueprint and putting it in the Muslim community.”
Orsini’s MAP presentation drew about 45 participants, according to Sitwat, who said that she was pleased with the turnout, particularly in light of the fact that many members of her community were out of town because of spring break.
“Everyone there felt that this was much needed,” she said, adding that Orsini’s presentation was more akin to “starting a conversation” about security than active training. MAP will be organizing actual security drills with the Northern Regional Police Department. Orsini has offered to help with those drills.
“It was very gracious of him, and we are grateful for our friendship and partnership,” Sitwat said.
Orsini has been given discretion by the Federation to determine where and for whom to provide security training.
“It’s part of what I do for the community,” he said. “Just as two weeks ago the Quaker Valley School District asked me to come and talk to their school board on a panel on school safety with Dr. Jack Rozel, who’s in charge of the re:Solve Crisis Network. It’s the same thing, just offering the services to the entire community.”
Orsini also has received requests for personnel training from additional schools in the area.
“My primary duty is to the Jewish community,” he explained. “But if I can do it, I will do it.”
He is also organizing “a communitywide civil rights symposium” in May, to which he will invite the FBI and the United States Attorneys’ office.
“That’s going to be not just for the Jewish community, but for any religious organization — or anybody in the community — and we are going to discuss hate crime versus hate speech and provide examples of hate crimes that were prosecuted here in Pittsburgh,” Orsini said.
In addition, he is hoping “to bring mental health first aid training in our community to de-escalate situations and to see what we can do to identify situations and get people the services they need if they pose a threat.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.