Jewish Federation of St. Louis has hired a community security director following a year of bomb threats against Jewish institutions — including the local Jewish Community Center — and vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in University City.
Federation, which helps provide security for other local Jewish groups and institutions, has hired Scott Biondo on an interim basis. A longtime security consultant, Biondo has worked in the Jewish community for more than 15 years, he said. He led efforts to increase security at local cemeteries after more than 150 headstones were knocked over or damaged at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in February.
He said he would like to provide a “level of consistency and uniformity in the Jewish community in the way security situations are handled.”
“I think currently everyone is kind of doing their own thing,” said Biondo who started off in law enforcement and then moved into private security.
Federation here joins about 25 other Jewish communities that have hired such a security official, according to a press release.
The local Federation had been reluctant to create such a position because “once you begin down that path, it’s very hard to unwind,” Andrew Rehfeld, president and CEO said in March. “It’s more of a permanent commitment but we all sort of are feeling that the situation is ratcheting it up to the point where we ought” to be investing additional money in security.
The role of the director will be to lead development, organization and monitoring of security operations and programs, according to the press release. Biondo will work with leaders of other Jewish groups to conduct risk assessments and develop emergency plans. He will also help facilitate communication among Jewish groups and law enforcement agencies.
At the Jewish cemeteries, Biondo has been working to upgrade video surveillance. No arrests have been made in the Chesed Shel Emeth vandalism.
Biondo also organized security for the Israeli ambassador’s visit earlier this month.
In addition, he would like to strengthen relationships between Jewish institutions and neighbors to ensure that if people in the vicinity see something suspicious, “they say something,” Biondo said.
“It’s not that Federation wants to own everyone’s security apparatus” but the organization “certainly wants to be a resource and collaborate with everybody,” he added.