Skip To Content
Breaking News

What Security Lessons Can Jewish Organizations Learn From Orlando Massacre?

WASHINGTON — Jewish institutions must heed the flaws in the security industry exposed by the mass shooting in Orlando, the top Jewish community security official said.

Paul Goldenberg, who directs Secure Community Network, said Omar Mateen’s employment by a prominent security firm, G4S, should raise alarms by Jewish groups that hire security staffers from that firm and other contractors.

“We need to rethink the process and not depend on the lowest bidder,” Goldenberg told JTA on Sunday, emphasizing that he was not singling out G4S, but noting that many Jewish institutions used outside contractors. “The Jewish community has come to rely on private security professionals. We need to consider who to hire.”

Mateen pledged loyalty to the Islamic State in communications with police during his attack on a gay nightclub early Sunday, in which he killed 49 people and wounded 53. He was killed during the attack, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Goldenberg, whose SCN is an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said security staff often have minimum screening and training, and are paid minimum wage.

“A lot of these companies, they’re hiring folks out of need,” he said. “The rates are very low that people are paid and they need to hold on to these guards.

He said contractors often screen staff just once, and are hesitant to act even when alerted to unusual behavior.

“When do you step up and say something’s not right?” Goldenberg said. “When you see something that’s not right or you feel it, who do you report it to? And do these companies have a mechanism in place for that purpose? So it’s a real hot topic. And my concern is that we’ve gone so far the other way that people are afraid to speak up.”

G4S said in a statement it was cooperating with law enforcement. It said Mateen was employed as a guard at a residential community in south Florida and that it had screened him twice, once in 2006 when he was hired and again in 2013. G4S said it was found “no adverse findings” in its screenings, and that it was not informed of separate screenings by law enforcement.

NBC reported that the FBI had screened Mateen at least twice, including once in 2013 after coworkers said he made inflammatory statements about radical Islam. A colleague, Daniel Gilroy, told USA Today he had informed G4S about Mateen’s homophobic and racially charged comments.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.