ON TUESDAY, AUG. 29, hundreds of interfaith community leaders gathered with representatives of the Middlesex and Monmouth County prosecutors’ offices, the New Jersey offices of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the Attorney General, the FBI, municipal police departments, and the Secure Community Network (SCN), for a day of education aimed at enhancing preparedness for security threats and bias incidents affecting faith communities. 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.
This event followed another educational program where 30 law enforcement officers met with survivors and toured the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to better understand law enforcement’s role in civil society. The program was organized by Chhange, the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.
“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,” said Rabbi Eric Rosen of Congregation Neve Shalom, Metutchen.
N.J.’s top law enforcement and public safety figures presented timely information about recognizing and responding to bias. Some of the many presenters included Attorney General Chris Porrino who affirmed the state’s stance renouncing hate and the state’s commitment to holding those responsible for hate accountable. Jared Maples, N.J. director of Homeland Security and Preparedness, provided a brief on the current threat environment in the state and what faith leaders can do to protect their congregations.
Dr. Ali Chaudry, president of the NJ Interfaith Coalition and president/founder of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, led the attendees in the recitation of a pledge “to stand up for the other”: 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.
Amy Mallet, first vice president of the Jewish Federation, announced an interfaith clergy mission to Israel this fall, sponsored by the Federation. The trip is designed for faith leaders to better understand the dynamics surrounding the quest for peace in the Holy Land.
“I’m very impressed with the community the Federation brought together,” said Chaudry. “Having worked with the Jewish community for many years, I have always felt a high level of sincerity in working together.”