BuJews Are the FBI’s Best Kept Secret
Jewish Buddhists, or JewBus, are a well-known phenomenon. BuJews, on the other hand, are a better kept secret since, fittingly, they are found only at the FBI. The name stands for Bureau Jews, and it describes those involved in the FBI’s Jewish American Employee Resource Group (ERG).
As defined on the FBI’s website, ERGs are “informal, employee-led groups that connect employees with shared interests”—which is precisely what BuJews co-founders Hillary Rossman and Lisa Crowder had in mind when they started the group in August 2022.
It’s impossible to say how many Jews work at the FBI since the bureau does not track religious affiliation among its employees. However, attorney Rossman, who is a supervisory special agent and acting chief division counsel for the FBI’s Miami field office, said that she has been the only Jewish special agent in more than one office throughout her career. That’s one reason why she’s kvelling that BuJews membership, which also includes non-Jews, grew to over 400 in its first year. “I’m overwhelmed to see the interest in BuJews among the bureau workforce,” Rossman said.
Among the group’s activities are arranging invitations to Passover seders for employees on temporary assignment, designing an FBI kippah and stocking siddurim at the nondenominational chapel at the bureau’s training academy in Quantico, Va. According to Crowder, an analyst and liaison officer in Washington, D.C., BuJews “help FBI divisions better understand, support and liaise with Jewish communities and serve as a resource for leadership to address harassment, hate crimes and domestic terrorism incidents.”
Toward that end, BuJews designed a model for law enforcement to build trust with Jewish communities before antisemitic acts happen. In November 2022, an FBI office in Westchester County, N.Y., launched Operation Outstretched Arm, during which agents and analysts briefed more than 95 Jewish institutions on security threats and learned about the issues facing each group. Since then, the FBI has received dozens of tips, some of which turned into ongoing and active investigations.
In May, BuJews hosted the FBI’s first Jewish American Heritage Month celebration featuring keynote speeches by Ambassador Deborah E. Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and Attorney General Merrick Garland. The group also runs a monthly speaker series.
Last Hanukkah, BuJews held an inaugural menorah lighting at FBI headquarters in Washington. Looking ahead to this year’s ceremony, Rossman said that it fills her heart to see “the FBI light the darkness in such an incredibly poignant way.”