Jews face special risks that require vigilance, though there is no “specific, credible threat” against Jewish targets, Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told the Forward during a visit to the newspaper’s New York offices.
In a June 4 meeting with the paper’s editorial staff, Napolitano cited the particular exposure she said Jews face in explanation of a DHS security grant program that mostly benefits Jewish groups.
“Unfortunately there are risks attendant on the Jewish community that are not attendant on all other communities,” she said.
Listen to an interview with Napolitano by Forward editor Jane Eisner and Washington correspondent Nathan Guttman:
A Forward report found that the program for DHS security grants for not-for-profit organizations was tailored to the Jewish community and that almost three-quarters of its funds went to Jewish institutions.
“The fact that it ends up going to many Jewish organizations doesn’t in itself bother me,” Napolitano said. She added that she had seen no evidence that the money was misspent, and that she believes the grant program has been successful.
Tension levels within the Jewish community, Napolitano said, hit a peak this past winter, following intensified rhetoric between Israel and Iran, and the indictment of an Iranian American in Texas for his role in an alleged plot by an Iranian official to bomb the Washington embassies of Israel and Saudi Arabia. These concerns prompted Napolitano to hold a conference call with 200 Jewish communal leaders last February, in which she discussed the threats and the actions taken to ensure the community’s safety.
During her tenure at DHS, Napolitano added, threats to the Jewish community came from foreign entities, from homegrown extremists and from “hate crime type of activity.”