A Jewish security agency warned Jewish organizations that they should call the police if the leftist Jewish group IfNotNow protests outside of their offices today.
The Secure Community Network, which operates as an arm of both the Jewish Federations of North American and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, distributed an alert to Jewish groups with a “situation overview” and “security recommendations” for the day of nationwide protest called by IfNotNow for Wednesday.
SCN’s letter listed a number of protests planned by the group for its national “Day of Jewish Resistance,” and included security recommendations that included calling police, recording protesters with CCTV cameras, and telling staff to “avoid contact” with protesters.
IfNotNow and its sympathizers told the Forward that the protesters should not be treated as a security threat.
“They’re so afraid of (us) that they are calling us threats,” said Yonah Lieberman, and IfNotNow protester. “Instead of rising to the occasion of the moment, they are telling security to watch out for young Jews who are coming to their door.”
The group’s national day of protest, aimed at calling on Jewish groups to demand that Donald Trump not appoint former Breitbart publisher Steve Bannon as a top White House advisor, comes as IfNotNow becomes an increasingly visible protest organization.
In the past, IfNotNow has engaged in disruptive non-violent tactics, including staging multiple “sit-ins” in the lobbies of major Jewish organizations. It staged a large protest outside the Zionist Organization of America’s annual dinner in November, where Bannon was scheduled to speak, although he did not show up.
“While the group has historically participated in peaceful protests they have been disruptive on several occasions which has resulted in several members to have been arrested,” SCN said in its warning email. “We believe that the protest will be peaceful in nature.”
A spokesperson for the Jewish Federations of North America said that SCN’s email was routine and downplayed the possibility of confrontation. SCN’s alerts are distributed to Jewish communal leaders across the country.
“SCN routinely sends alerts about anticipated protests of local federations, regardless of the size or nature of the expected protest, or the organization protesting,” the spokesperson said.
But liberal groups called the alert a symptom of a community leadership that is less and less willing to listen to dissent.
“It’s Jewish social justice advocates asking their community to speak out against anti-Semitism and homophobia and racism, and the response of the secruity officials in the community is to call the cops on them and treat activists is as a security threat,” said Naomi Dann, a spokesperson for the left-wing group Jewish Voice for Peace.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.