WHITEFISH BAY — Local FBI officials in January honored Mark Shapiro, president/CEO of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center. In April, Shapiro is to be honored once more, in Washington, D.C.
Justin Tolomeo, special agent in charge of the Milwaukee division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, honored Shapiro with the FBI director’s community leadership award for his actions in response to threats against the JCC in 2017.
Tolomeo presented Shapiro with the award during a Jan. 17 ceremony at the JCC in Whitefish Bay. Shapiro was recognized for working closely with local law enforcement and the FBI in early 2017, leading with positivity, and supporting the community with strong values and partnership.
“The mission of the FBI is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution and we don’t do that alone,” Tolomeo said, speaking to about 100 people during the award presentation. “We have key partnerships in our communities.”
Tolomeo said the FBI seeks to recognize its key partners.
“Mark was instrumental in being a bridge during the threats to the JCCs across the country,” he said.
Shapiro expressed appreciation for Tolomeo; others in law enforcement; his family; Milwaukee Jewish Federation Director of Security & Community Properties Ari Friedman; and JCC staff and leadership, including COO Jesse Rosen and Chief Marketing Officer Chad Tessmer.
“I want to thank every one of us staff who put the wellbeing” of children in the JCC’s care “in front of their own,” Shapiro said. Staff worked to not create a sense of crisis for the children. Shapiro recalled one comment from a pleased parent: “You sent our daughter home today as innocent as when I dropped her off.”
Early in 2017, Jewish community centers, Jewish schools and other institutions, including the JCC in Whitefish Bay, were hit with more than 100 threats. None of the threats turned out to be credible.
The main suspect turned out to be an Israeli-American Jew, Michael Kadar of Ashkelon, who was arrested for making hundreds of threats. Kadar, 18 at the time of his arrest, reportedly sold his bomb threat services online and, according to his lawyers, suffers from a brain tumor.
But back in early 2017, as the threats were coming in, nobody knew they would turn out to not be credible, said Jamie Miller, JCC board chair. “All we knew was that we had a responsibility to serve the community, inclusively, safely and in partnership with those around us.”
Shapiro said he was honored “to be a guardian of the people of Israel and to be surrounded by so many guardians.”
Shapiro and other community leaders from around the country will be further honored at a national ceremony this spring, according to a news release. FBI Director Christopher Wray will present the awards at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. during the annual Director’s Community Leadership Award ceremony on April 20.