Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley's new security adviser is an ex-Bethlehem cop
- The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley welcomed their new regional security adviser Tim Brooks during their Tuesday meeting
- Brooks brings decades of law enforcement, military, and emergency planning training to his new role
- The position will entail working with law enforcement, conducting threat assessments, training staff, and more
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley welcomed its new regional security adviser during a meeting Tuesday night as the local community faces concerns stemming from the Israel-Hamas war.
Following years of securing funding, exploring options and vetting candidates, the Jewish Federation introduced Tim Brooks of Secure Community Network to a small crowd in Allentown, where he explained his position and fielded questions.
“It's the first time we've had a regional security adviser in the community, and we're delighted to welcome him,” said Jeri Zimmerman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.
Though Brooks’ introduction comes at a tumultuous time, Zimmerman said his services are a necessity to ensure the safety of the community.
“Right now, in particular, antisemitism is up 388% according to ADL statistics,” Zimmerman said. "As the result of antisemitism on our college campuses, directed toward our facilities, our synagogues, our schools, and our community centers, I think there was a need across the country. Also, the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I think that was the initial impetus for communities to take security more seriously.”
Director of Campaign and Security Planning Aaron Gorodzinksky said the Jewish Federation had to work alongside its national partners and the Secure Community Network to partner together in order to obtain grant funding for Brooks. Another Jewish community in Harrisburg also helped provide funding, Gorodzinsky said.
Once the money was in place, a national search began, requiring several months to find a proper candidate who met all the benchmarks.
“Then we got an opportunity to meet with him, and we loved the idea that he was local, that he had former military and police officer experience,” Gorodzinsky said. “And then we decided to move forward with our committee and offer that position to him.”
While Brooks is coming on board at a point of peak anxiety for the Lehigh Valley’s Jewish community, Gorodzinsky said the process to find a candidate started four years ago.
“The idea that working with the Secure Community Network is that every community is going to have their own security director, or a regional security director, in their community, because we understand the current situation that Jewish communities are facing…it's only getting worse and worse,” Gorodzinsky said, adding he has heard some of the 151 Jewish community networks across the country and Canada are now scrambling to find their own security directors.
Kicking off the meeting, Brooks introduced himself to the crowd, sharing his extensive experience in law enforcement and the military.
“I'm from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and I was a Bethlehem police officer for 20 years. I just recently retired from the Pennsylvania National Guard as a colonel. I was chief of the joint staff for the Pennsylvania National Guard. I have an extensive background in emergency management and exercises. And I'm glad to be here, but I wish I wasn't.”Regional Security Advisor Tim Brooks
“I'm from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and I was a Bethlehem police officer for 20 years. I just recently retired from the Pennsylvania National Guard as a colonel. I was chief of the joint staff for the Pennsylvania National Guard. I have an extensive background in emergency management and exercises,” Brooks said. “And I'm glad to be here, but I wish I wasn't.”
Brooks comes from a team of about 75 individuals with law enforcement, military, and emergency management backgrounds across the United States and Canada, including numerous advisers from the FBI.
One of Brooks’ most important capabilities in his role revolves around incident reporting, as SCN can call upon the Jewish Security Command Center, a small subset of the group that works in 24-hour shifts to monitor any issues and evaluate threat levels across the country.
Gorodzinsky said reporting incidents is of pivotal importance, as it plays a significant role in assessing threats to the Jewish community –- whether that may be a hateful symbol spray-painted on a building, antisemitic threats in a school, or anything else.
“If we don't report every single incident that occurs in our community, whether it looks small or big, we cannot go to our elected officials and say ‘Do something.’” Gorodzinsky said.
Top priorities for Brooks include functioning as a liaison between the Jewish Federation and local, state, and federal law enforcement, conducting threat, vulnerability, and risk assessments, serving as a liaison with security committees, training staff and congregants, and conducting crisis communications.
“I look forward to the coming weeks and months, when I can meet with you on a smaller level and give you training. And some of the training we have we start off with, the first training, is called ‘Be Aware.’” Brooks said.
“It's SCN’s introduction to situational awareness. We teach how to recognize suspicious or potential or dangerous behavior, and what to do, whether you're at your synagogue, school or just out doing whatever you do every day. The second kind of phase in training is the ‘Countering Active Threat’ training. We call it ‘CAT’ for short. This is actually a comprehensive training program to counter an active threat.”
Brooks later fielded a few questions from the crowd, and in person, with at least a few individuals wondering about firearms and training. As he put it, Brooks does not “want to make it seem like you need to barricade your house and stay inside,” but that purchasing and using a gun is something that requires careful consideration and training, even in such dire times.
“Yes, I support the Second Amendment, but it's a weapon that can take a life, and it's important to respect it, to be trained in its use if you decide to get a concealed weapons permit. It's a big deal. Some people don't think it's a big deal, but it is because of the potentially dangerous situations that can happen,” Brooks said.
Over the coming weeks, Brooks plans on meeting with officials from the local synagogues to build bonds and strengthen the network for increased safety. And while he is coming into his position at a precarious time for the Jewish community, Brooks assured the crowd their safety is his top priority, as he conveyed upon finishing the meeting.
“In the military, we have a saying, it's called ‘BLUF,’ B, L, U, F. And that stands for is ‘Bottom Line Up Front. I am your local security representative, and I've worked tirelessly with every organization in the Lehigh Valley to make you feel safer. Thank you,” Brooks said.