The Vacation Is Over!

By Rabbi Cary Kozberg. April 12, 2022

This past week here in Columbus, Ohio, it was discovered that Thomas Devlin, a guard from a private security firm hired to protect the local Orthodox Jewish day school, had posted an anti-Semitic post on the dark web holding up a handgun and had threatened violence against parents dropping their children off. It made national news.

Fortunately—but totally by accident—the post was discovered, and the man was arrested before any harm could be done. He faces a several federal charges and is in jail on $1M bond.

How could this happen? At a community meeting to discuss what happened and how to prevent something similar from happening again, we learned from Homeland Security’s liaison to our Jewish community that he himself had hired the man. How? Because the man was a member of the National Guard and was highly qualified for the security position. Moreover, there was absolutely no indication or evidence in his background that he was a white supremacist and Jew-hater. He was discovered when a fellow member of his National Guard unit who also participated in this hate chat group, died.

When the mother of the deceased was going through his personal belongings, she began to look at his cell phone and discovered the postings. She turned the phone over to the National Guard who did more investigating and determined that Devlin was a member of this group. This information was then shared with our local Homeland Security team. Telling the folks at the meeting this story, our liaison expressed a deep sense of shock, embarrassment, and a tremendous sense of betrayal. It was as if he had inadvertently put his own family in danger. But given that there was no prior indication of his beliefs and given that his qualifications were superb, he seemed the perfect candidate. At the end of the day, what had happened was an anomaly.

In the discussion that followed, the focus was how to strengthen security at our schools and synagogues, so that this kind of anomaly would not happen again. We were assured that in the future, only police officers and not private security personnel would be used. However, we were also told that these days--for various reasons--off-duty officers were not as available as they once were. .....


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