Federation talks security, antisemitism

By Reporter staff

When Shelley Hubal began her tenure as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton, she thought the major portion of her work would be fund-raising to keep community institutions healthy during a time when the Jewish population of Broome County was decreasing. She also wanted to increase the number of Jewish events for people of all ages, from children to seniors. Then life changed.

“The first problem that occurred was the pandemic,” Hubal said. “We looked for ways to keep the community connected, even when we could not gather in person. Looking back on the number of programs we produced, I believe we did an excellent job.”

However, other concerns soon rose, those connected to security issues and the increase in antisemitism in American society. “I never thought there would be a day when Jewish organizations would have to restrict entry to their buildings – locking their doors or having police officers guarding them, but that has become a reality,” she said. “There have been too many attacks on American Jewish institutions, so security has become a priority. I want every building that contains a Jewish organization to be safe.”

She also finds the increase in antisemitic writing and actions disturbing. “Far too much criticism of Israeli policies have crossed the line into antisemitism,” she noted. “And that problem seems to be growing even in our own community.”

Hubal recently dealt with this issue when a Binghamton City Council resolution was put forth supporting a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. “I knew the resolution would pass and ultimately not have an impact on our community. So, while I disagreed with the resolution, my concerns were to make certain that it did not cross the line into anything overtly antisemitic and that the council meeting would become unsafe,” she said. “I contacted the Jewish Federations of North America and asked for support. Through JFNA, I was able to have a consultation with one of their policy experts. We read through the resolution and its supporting documents together. Ultimately, with the council of the JFNA expert, various community members, BU students and our security expert Mark Henderson, I decided to not attend the council meeting. Hillel at Binghamton was hosting a talk by a NOVA music festival survivor the same evening and I decided to support that instead.” 

Hubal noted another issue that arose recently took place on the Binghamton University campus. “I also consulted with Mark Henderson in regard to the student encampment and Israel rally at BU,” she said. “He alerted the Secure Community Network about the events so they could monitor social media. In short, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. I am learning how important it is to act deliberately for the sake of safety.”

Hubal noted that people have reached out to her because of their concern about Binghamton City Council’s resolution, but she doesn’t believe the Federation should call more attention to an action that has no real influence on events in the Middle East. “I think we should support Israel through fund-raising and community education, fight antisemitism though outreach and focus on ways to keep our community safe, particularly being on the lookout for active threats,” she said. “We continue to monitor those with the help of the Secure Community Network and we take every one seriously.”