Friday, September 20, 2019

South River, NJ—On Tuesday, August 29, hundreds of interfaith community leaders gathered with representatives of the Middlesex and Monmouth County prosecutor’s offices, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the FBI, several municipal police departments and a non-profit security consultant, Secure Community Network, for a day of education aimed at enhancing preparedness for security threats and bias incidents affecting all faith communities in Greater Middlesex and Monmouth counties, as well as others across the state. The day-long preparedness conference that took place at Rutgers Hillel in New Brunswick was produced and sponsored by the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.

After Jeff Schwartz, president of the Jewish Federation, opened the gathering on bias awareness and response, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey set the stage for a full afternoon in which New Jersey’s top law enforcement and public-safety figures presented timely and actionable information about recognizing and responding to bias. New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino affirmed New Jersey’s stance renouncing hate and the state’s commitment to holding those responsible for hate accountable. Chief Investigator for the Middlesex County Department of Corrections, David D’Amico, spoke about recognizing and responding to bias. Deputy Attorney General, New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, Jeffrey Barile, discussed understanding the New Jersey Bias Intimidation Statute. Director of Community Programming and Outreach, Office of the NJ Attorney General, Leah D. Smith, presented an overview of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. New Jersey Director of Homeland Security and Preparedness Jared Maples provided briefing on the current threat environment in the State of New Jersey, emphasizing what faith leaders can do to protect their congregations. Director of Training and Outreach for The Secure Community Network (SCN) Mark Genatempo presented security education through a case study of recent violence at a Kansas City Jewish community center. Earlier in the day, senior advisor to SCN Doron Horowitz led an interactive table-top simulation training Jewish community leaders on handling security during the upcoming High Holidays.

Dr. Ali Chaudry, president of the New Jersey Interfaith Coalition and president/founder of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, led the entire group of interfaith attendees in taking the Pledge to Stand Up for the Other, which reads:

While interacting with members of my own faith, or ethnic, or gender community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and speak up to challenge bigotry in any form.

Rabbi Eric Rosen of Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen, said, “I want to thank the Federation for convening this gathering. Ultimately, information about the laws that protect us and relationships with fellow faith communities around us are the most powerful tools we have to keep our communities safe.”

Amy Mallet, first vice president of the Jewish Federation, recognized the Jewish Federation’s Security Task Force and its Federation professional liaison, Amy Keller, for their role in making the Jewish community and all faith communities safer, more inclusive and more vibrant. Mallet then announced an interfaith clergy mission to Israel, sponsored by the Federation, this coming fall. The trip is designed for faith leaders to better understand the dynamics surrounding the quest for peace in the Holy Land. It will be the second such mission the Federation has facilitated in two years.

Following the conclusion of the day’s program, Dr. Chaudry commented, “I’m very impressed with the community the Federation brought together, with a willingness to work together and share concerns. Bias is a problem for every one of us... today it’s against Jews, tomorrow against Muslims. Having worked with the Jewish community for many years, I have always felt a high level of sincerity in working together.”

Homeland Security Director Jared Maples said, “In Texas, we see compassion and hope. The opposite of what we see with recent stories of hate and bigotry. Be on the lookout for the good, with people of all faiths and backgrounds coming together as a community.”

The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, along with its core mission to care for the vulnerable and strengthen the Jewish future through inspirational programs for young people, is committed to addressing security and bias issues that affect the Jewish community and its interfaith neighbors. Ongoing efforts have recently included sponsoring a Law Enforcement Officers education program in partnership with chhange, the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College, and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. More than 30 officers from local municipalities interacted with Holocaust survivors and toured the U.S. Holocaust Historical Museum in Washington, D.C., during the two-day program helping law-enforcement gain a deeper understanding of hate crimes and law enforcement’s role in responding to hate crimes.

For information on getting involved, please contact Amy Keller at [email protected]

By JLNJ Staff