Rutgers team trains Jews and Muslims from Brussels enclaves in identifying extremists

Rutgers team trains Jews and Muslims from Brussels enclaves in identifying extremists

Belgian law enforcement hosted a program run by U.S. security experts on identifying and reducing violence by terrorists, including those targeting Jewish communities.

The program all last week culminated an invitation by Belgian authorities in the wake of a series of deadly bombings in Brussels in March 2016 to a Rutgers University team of experts in extremist violence to assess causes and come up with recommendations.

The training sessions, organized by the Rutgers experts and Belgian law enforcement, were completed in two districts in Brussels familiar with extremist violence: the Sablon, a neighborhood with Jewish institutions, including the Jewish Museum, targeted in a deadly 2014 attack; and Molenbeek, a community with a large Muslim population that drew attention when it emerged as a haven to some planners of the deadly 2016 attacks in Brussels and in Paris, including one on a Paris kosher supermarket. Participants included community leaders and law enforcement officials.

The sessions focused on community policing — cultivating relationships with communities that produce attackers as well as those that are likely targets for attacks — and included video interviews with residents of the neighborhoods and law enforcement officials.

“The most effective way forward is to take action at the street level to protect vulnerable populations by strengthening their ties with law enforcement and making our communities more resilient,” said John Farmer, a Rutgers professor and a former New Jersey attorney general.

The Rutgers team has been working with U.S. and European Jewish communities since 2014. One of its members, Paul Goldenberg, directs Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America.

“The issues we have been confronting in Brussels resonate in communities throughout Europe, the United States and beyond,” Goldenberg said. “This unprecedented initiative is a best practice that can be adapted to other communities and law enforcement.”

The program was funded by Paul Miller, an alumnus of Rutgers University and Rutgers Law School.