Rutgers Joins International Effort to Prevent Hatred, Intolerance and Prejudice

Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience memorializes those killed during Holocaust at annual International March of the Living at Auschwitz.

Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience took part in the International March of the Living at Auschwitz, memorializing the millions killed during the Holocaust. Photo: Courtesy of Yossi Zeliger

Joining 13,000 people from more than 40 countries, representatives of Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience took part this month in the International March of the Living – memorializing six million Jews and millions of others killed during the Holocaust while examining the hatred, intolerance and prejudice that continues to plague the world today.

“The Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, which focuses on the prevention of violence and genocide against vulnerable populations, partnered with the March of the Living because remembrance is the foundation of prevention,” says John J. Farmer Jr., University Professor of Law and former New Jersey attorney general who directs the Miller Center.

The center’s mission is to identify, develop and implement reliable practices for protecting vulnerable populations.

Farmer along with Paul Miller, an alumnus of Rutgers University and Rutgers Law School who funded the Miller Center, and his wife, Carol, traveled to Poland to take part in the march at Auschwitz with 41 international ambassadors and the presidents of Poland and Israel.

On behalf of Rutgers and the Miller Center, Miller lit a torch during the ceremony dedicated to the children of the Holocaust and to children of vulnerable populations, past, present and future. A contingent of New Jersey attorneys also attended the march, which brings individuals from around the world to Poland and Israel annually to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred.

In conjunction with the march, the Miller Center in partnership with the New Jersey State Bar Association cosponsored a continuing legal education program that examined the role of lawyers and judges in the Holocaust, how to prevent genocide, and the need to seek justice and protect vulnerable communities throughout the world today.

“Rutgers was a major, important partner in this program,” says David Machlis, cofounder and vice chair of the international march who holds a Ph.D. in economics from Rutgers. “There was no other institute of higher education that took such a role.”

Machlis, a professor of economics at Adelphi University in New York, is working with the Miller Center to identify and protect vulnerable communities in Europe and the United States. As part of this initiative, he says, the Paul Miller Deans Program will begin offering deans of schools of law and education an intensive educational symposium on Holocaust history and genocide prevention, culminating in the 2019 International March of the Living.

“My research shows that of the 2,740 colleges and universities around the country, two-thirds don’t offer a course on Holocaust genocide,” says Machlis. “Even if you allow for a 10 percent rate of error, this number is still extremely dramatic.”

Machlis’s belief that education is needed to effect change is bolstered by the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, which found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since the ADL started tracking the data in 1979.

Additionally, a recent CBS News poll found that four in 10 millennials do not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust and two-thirds could not identify what Auschwitz was.

The Miller Center grew out of a project that launched in May 2014 in the wake of a lethal terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels, recognizing the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe and America and of intolerance generally.

The goal of the center is to implement programs that protect vulnerable populations by identifying and disseminating best practices, offering police-community training workshops, assisting on security and civil liberty issues and engaging in research relevant to protection.

“The reality that millions of people now live in countries where they were not born, coupled with the continued struggles of historic minority populations, means that we live as never before in a world of vulnerable populations,” Farmer says.

Researchers and experts from Rutgers have done extensive work in Brussels, conducting police-community workshops in the Muslim community in Molenbeek and other communities in the Sablon district, and have also worked with and provided assistance to vulnerable populations in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Malmo, Budapest, Prague, Brussels, Vienna and Copenhagen.

They have been working with communities in the United States in Cook County, Illinois, Dearborn, Michigan and Hennepin County, Minnesota, to glean information that has proven effective in protecting vulnerable communities around the world.

Members of the Rutgers team also provided guidance and support in Whitefish, Montana, in the wake of the substantial threats to the Jewish community by avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer who was born there. The center plans to return to the community to offer further assistance.

“The situation is not over, but the response of the community at large in Whitefish was overwhelming support,” says Farmer. “That’s the only antidote to this hatred that is rising all over the world – for the vast majority of people who reject hatred to say so.”

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