Despite recent anti-Semitism, local leaders stay optimistic

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Five years ago this week, the first of what would be four bomb threats rattled the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay.

More recently, an attack at a synagogue in Texas, and Nazi protests in Florida, along with anti-Semitic flyers distributed in Kenosha have shown that more work needs to be done in combatting prejudice.

CBS 58’s Bill Walsh spoke with Mark Shapiro, president and CEO of the center, for a question and answer about how it is continuing on its mission.

"I think what happened in Texas a couple of weeks ago, it would have shocked people, but within a day the story was over as we all went back like nothing happened," Shapiro said. "That’s what overwhelms me, I think we’ve become desensitized to hate."

CBS 58's Bill Walsh: "Your organization has a resiliency, would you say that inclusion and education is the way that you accomplish that?"

Mark Shapiro: "Every Thursday when we open up the Jewish Community Food Pantry at the corner of 29th and Center, that’s not about uniquely something Jewish, it is something guided by Jewish values."

Bill Walsh: "Are there factors that you maybe equate with a rise in anti-Semitism lately?"

Mark Shapiro: "I just don’t know specifically what is happening right now. I think it’s been going on for years. I think that as our country has become divided, we have allowed people to say and think out loud, things that used to stay in the basement."

Bill Walsh: "What can well-meaning people do to be an advocate and a force for good?"

Mark Shapiro: "You know it when you see it, you know it when you hear it…call it out. Call it for what it is, it’s hate."

Shapiro says after the bomb threats five years ago, the JCC didn’t lose members, and many of the employees working back then are still working there now.

Shapiro says this is a sign that this community is resilient, and that the JCC’s agenda of inclusion is making a difference.

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