Thirty law enforcement officers from Monmouth County took part in a timely Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) educational program this week using lessons from the Holocaust to better understand their role in a pluralistic civil society where bias-related activity is becoming more prevalent.
The officers interacted with Holocaust survivors and toured the U.S. Holocaust Historical Museum in Washington, D.C. during the two-day program organized by Chhange, the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft; sponsored by the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey; and additionally funded by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office as a result of meetings convened earlier this year by the Federation with the Prosecutor’s Office.
“The program was an incredibly powerful experience, especially our tour of the museum, which in my case was led by ‘Al’ a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands,” said R. Craig Weber, Chief of Police, Middletown Twp. “It was a stark reminder that collectively we all share a responsibility to oppose evil and never forget these horrible crimes against humanity.”
Participants gained a deeper understanding of hate crimes and law enforcement’s role in responding to such crimes. They learned how Europe’s entire legal process of the 1930s and 40s succumbed to and ultimately aided the Nazis in their persecutions. The officers participating in the program also had time to reflect on their own biases and preconceived notions.
Chief Weber added, “For law enforcement officers it also underscored the importance of our sacred obligation to protect everyone’s civil liberties and human rights. I couldn’t help recalling the words of Edmund Burke, who said ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”
The timing of the program -- the same week as the tragic events in Charlottesville, VA, followed by vandalism at a Boston Holocaust memorial and terrorism in Barcelona – prompted program sponsor, the Jewish Federation, to reiterate its position that “hate and bigotry of any kind should have no home in our community,” according to Amy Mallet, the Federation’s First Vice President.
According to Dale Daniels, Chhange Executive Director, “It was important that these law enforcement professionals understood that the people the Nazis targeted shared the same lifestyle yet maintained their own traditions. They depended on law enforcement to keep them safe. This is true today throughout the U.S.”
Mallet said the Federation had been contacted by national news media looking for statements following the Charlottesville events. “We explained that this Federation is not merely making a statement with words. Actions speak louder than words, which is why this Federation had already planned – long before the events in Charlottesville – the LEO program with Chhange and the Prosecutor’s Office.”
Continuing, Mallet described a second program the Federation is conducting later in August. The two-part program will engage Jewish communal leaders in addressing security during the Jewish New Year High Holidays and also support, educate, and empower interfaith leaders in handling bias incidents.”
The late-August program will bring together presenters from the Secure Community Network (SCN) and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office along with NJ Attorney General, Christopher Porrino and Director of NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Jared Maples. Their timely and practical presentations will include a focus on statewide initiatives to address bias and security issues.
According to Ms. Mallet, “Through the Federation, every synagogue and school in this Jewish community has access to current best practices in security and dealing with bias. Since not every faith-based group has the same access to information, we invited our faith community neighbors to participate in the program.
“These events were planned proactively by the Federation in step with increasing needs to partner faith communities with civic officials,” she continued. “Our goal is to make the Jewish community and all faith communities safer, more inclusive, and more vibrant for all.
To learn more, contact Amy Keller at email@example.com.