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Community works well with local law enforcement, say MJF officials
June 1st, 2012
Recently, officials of the Milwaukee Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation held a training session for its agents and wanted to include a session on the Holocaust.
They turned to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s manager of community properties, Ari Friedman, who referred them to the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center.
That the FBI called Friedman speaks volumes about the agency’s relationship with the Jewish community.
“Our partnership with the law enforcement community and the outreach they’ve done with us is wonderful,” Friedman said in a recent interview. “The FBI has toured our facilities, so they’re familiar with our infrastructure, and the same is true with the Milwaukee Police Department.”
Those facilities include:
• The Helfaer Community Service Building, which houses the MJF, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.
• The Karl Jewish Community Campus in Whitefish Bay, which houses the Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Hillel Academy, the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, the Coalition for Jewish Learning, BBYO-Wisconsin Region, Jewish Beginnings Lubavitch Preschool, and the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center.
• The Zilber Building at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, home to Hillel Milwaukee.
Friedman’s security-related responsibilities include making sure that the JCC and schools have up-to-date emergency response plans in place and providing ways to enhance security in the face of provocative events.
Given the realities of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment, those events could be anything from a news story originating in Middle East to a local gathering that might attract hostile individuals or groups.
Friedman also provides security-related assistance to officials responsible for Jewish buildings throughout the state. Communities reaching out to Friedman include Waukesha, Manitowoc, Appleton, and Wausau.
Both Friedman and Elana Kahn-Oren, director of the MJF’s Jewish Community Relations Council, require close relationships with law enforcement for their work.
While both respond to Jewish community concerns statewide, Kahn-Oren is the contact for individual issues; Friedman’s emphasis is on facilities.
“Ari’s position is relatively new and devoted to taking care of the buildings, so he is focused on security in those buildings in a way we weren’t before. He does on-the-ground security in a much more focused way,” said Kahn-Oren.
Part of his focus has been on making sure that local police are familiar with MJF-owned facilities, and on building collaborative relationships with Federation colleagues.
Friedman cited Paul Greenspan, business manager at the JCC, the site’s top security official. Greenspan invited all police officers from Fox Point, Glendale, and Whitefish Bay to tour the building.
That more than 40 officers took advantage of the opportunity to tour building and get a sense of the 26-acre campus’ scope, Friedman said, was another demonstration of successful outreach.
Another example of successful outreach is the annual statewide audit of anti-Semitism, put together by Kahn-Oren and released by the JCRC, which combines information from multiple municipalities and sources into a single document.
“We release it to them with special information specific to law enforcement,” Kahn-Oren said of the audit, which goes out to all agencies in areas where incidents have occurred.
While the JCRC’s predecessor organization, the Milwaukee Jewish Council (later the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations), has worked with local law enforcement agencies since its founding in the 1930s, the present partnership dates back to Paula Simon’s days as executive director of the MJCRC, according to Kahn-Oren.
“She brought them together through a grant the Council received several years ago that did security trainings,” Kahn-Oren said. Those training sessions laid the groundwork for establishing the relationships on which Friedman and Kahn-Oren have continued to build, she said.
“We feel really safe, and most people in the Jewish community don’t sense any threat,” she said. “It’s reassuring when we communicate with law enforcement during international situations that require a higher level of alertness and we consistently hear from law enforcement that they are aware of and concerned about the potential for threats.”
Friedman provided two illustrations of that concern in action. One involved a package dropped at one of the MJF’s properties.
It aroused enough suspicion that he got a call asking whether to call the police. Friedman told the caller to do so immediately.
“It ended up being a nothing incident,” he said, “but they were very supportive of the caller, and when I asked one of the responding officers whether we should have called, he said, ‘I’d rather have you call and have everyone make fun of you for calling than not have you call and end up dead.’”
The other was that after bombs were discovered on the cars of Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia and India this past February, a memo went out to Israel emissaries worldwide, advising them to keep their cars in secure locations.
Because the Milwaukee community’s Israeli emissaries (shlichim) reside in Fox Point, but were going out of town, Friedman notified village Police Chief Tom Czaja. Without hesitation, Czaja told him to bring the emissaries’ cars to the police station, where they remained until the threat advisory had passed.
Amy Waldman is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and coordinator of the ACCESS Program for Displaced Homemakers at Milwaukee Area Technical College.