ADLs S.F. security program offers tips, inspiration

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A San Francisco conference on security for religious and other community institutions this week mixed practical advice with personal reflections and political advocacy.

The Anti-Defamation League's program drew a religiously and ethnically diverse crowd of about 100 to St. Mary's Cathedral Tuesday. Audience members who spoke during question-and-answer periods included Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran and Muslim clergy members as well as a representative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of several conference co-sponsors.

The recent, well-publicized hate crimes against Jews and other minorities were obviously on the minds of both presenters and attendees. Participants frequently referred to the Aug. 10 shootings at a Los Angeles-area Jewish community center and the killing of a Filipino-American postal worker nearby, as well as the June 18 arson attack on three Sacramento-area synagogues. They also spoke of the burnings of U.S. churches and mosques in recent years.

ADL's regional director, Jonathan Bernstein, asked the crowd to stand for a moment in silent tribute to the recent "multiple victims of hatred." He then said, "That should be your last silent protest when people are victimized by hate." Instead, he advocated "vocal, responsible protest."

In brief remarks, San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan said his office "regards hate crimes as one of the most serious and vicious offenses that can be perpetrated." He added that two of his best prosecutors — both of whom attended the conference — are assigned to hate crimes. "We ask for maximum sentences. We prosecute these cases to the utmost," he said.

Furlishous Wyatt Jr., a business security specialist, gave a presentation on security measures. "You have to give a little to get a little," Wyatt said, acknowledging that security measures can conflict with some organizations' philosophies, such as the desire to provide easy access.

In an emotional address, Rabbi Brad Bloom of Sacramento's Congregation B'nai Israel described the aftermath of the June arson that destroyed part of his synagogue. He related how he sat down and cried after removing Torah scrolls from the smoke-filled sanctuary. He spoke of the current daily hardship of going to work "in a trailer across from a bombed-out synagogue that used to be our home," with secretaries whose fearful husbands are pressuring them to leave the temple's employ.

Bloom expressed gratitude for the response of the Sacramento synagogues' Christian neighbors. "The non-Jewish community has been tremendous," he said.

Bloom asserted that hate crimes should be treated as a national problem. He said he has told California's two U.S. senators of the need for congressional hearings to expose hate groups and those who support them financially — including, he said, those who made their millions in Silicon Valley.

While Bloom declined to cite individuals, an Aug. 6 Jewish Bulletin article reported that former Silicon Valley tycoons Carl Story and Vincent Bertollini have bankrolled America's Promise Ministries, which is linked to the Christian Identity movement.