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September 29, 2017

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 29, 2017 now a By Curt Schleier (JTA)--There are almost as many reality cop shows on television as there are Real Housewives. "Cops" is the granddaddy of them all, in its 30th season, plus there's "Night Watch" and "Live PD," to name just a few. The newest is "Street Justice: The Bronx," which premiered Sept. 19 on the Discovery Channel. The series' trailer features a heavily tattooed, muscular older gentleman, head shaven, wearing a 41st Precinct T- shirt. As dramatic music pulsates in the background, he describes how dangerous the streets of the Bronx were in the 1970s, when he patrolled there. Words flash on the screen describing him as the most decorated detective in NYPD history. And then he introduces himself: "My name is Ralph Friedman and these are my stories." From the get-go, it's clear that this cop isn't like all other cops. Friedman, 68, made over 2,000 arrests and earned 219 department awards, plus another 36 civilian honors. He was cut by knives and razors, and had bones broken by tire irons. (Never shot, thankfully.) And then there is his back- ground: Friedman grew up in a largely unobservant Jewish family in the Kingsbridge sec- tion of the Bronx, only a few subway stops north of Yankee Stadium. He remembers stay- ing home on the High Holi- days and studying for his bar mitzvah, but "never pursued anything further than that." After high school, he took a job with a moving company making $4.50 an hour. "That was tremendous back then because everyone else was making $1.15," he said. On a lark, Friedman ac- companied some friends who were taking the police civil service exam. He passed and was called in nine months later. "Being a cop you could have a future, even without a college degree," he said. "If I stayed a mover, I'd be lifting that same refrigerator for 30 years." Friedman joined the NYPD Shomrim Society--the asso- ciation of Jewish cops--from the moment he took the job, and is still a member. Today there are approximately 3,000 Jews in the New York Police Department in a total force of 34,000. Still, Friedman's deco- rated career lasted just 14 years--his time at the NYPD cut short, ironically, not by a bad guy but a fellow cop. The "coup de grace that ended my career," he said in a telephone interview, occurred when he and a partner were racing in an unmarked car to a signal 10-13--"officer needs assis- tance"--and were struck by a blue-and-white police car rushing to the same call. His car was T-boned right where he sat, resulting in 23 broken bones, a hip shattered into 100 pieces and a disability pension. It took him more than two years to recover. Unable to work, Friedman traveled and worked around his house. But his quiet existence changed in 2015, when the New York Post did a major story about him that caught the attention of St. Martin's Press. In July, the book publisher brought out his memoir, "Street Warrior: The True Story of the NYPD's Most Decorated Detective and the Era That Created Him." Jupiter, the company that produces "Street Justice," took note. The series uses a combina- tion of archival footage and re-creations to trace some of the more dramatic mo- ments of Friedman's career. In the premiere episode, for example, a young Friedman is working the precinct desk when a detective upstairs is shot and killed by a perp who grabbed the cop's gun while being fingerprinted. Friedman's stories may seem like dramatic fiction, but not to anyone who lived in the area during that time. Sections of the Bronx more closely resembled Mosul than a part of the Big Apple with its vacant, burned-out buildings lining major thor- oughfares. It's no surprise that his precinct, the notorious 41st, was known derisively as Fort Apache. It encompassed only about two square miles, but it was the scene of over 100 homicides annually during this period. The Bronx is in the midst of a resurgence fueled in part by a continuing decline in crime that some, like Friedman, credit to aggressive police tactics that have lately fallen out of favor. New York City's current mayor, Bill de Blasio, made reducing stop-and-frisk policing a key plank in his mayoral campaign. Before he took office, a U.S. District Court judge said the tactic could be unconstitutional, and the department worked to decrease the frequency with which stops were being used by police. In 2013, the same judge said that stop and frisk was racial profiling by another name. Friedman, unsurprising- ly, is not pleased with the changes. "When I-was on the job, they wanted you to be very proactive, go out and arrest bad guys and do your job," he said. "Today it's not like that Ralph Friedman stars in "Street Justice: The Bronx" on the Discovery Channel with this mayor. Police are more reactive, after a crime has been committed. They don't want you out there doing real police work. Today, no one has your back. "When we went out and stopped a guy on a hunch and found a gun or drugs, it was considered a good ar- rest. Today you're violating the guy's rights. You're being micromanaged and the public will suffer." Asked if he felt there was any truth to the accusations of racial profiling, Friedman was interrupted by the Discov- ery Channel public relations person person, who ordered "next question." But Friedman did not have to answer the query for a reporter to get a feeling for his views. "I would love to be a cop today, but I don't think my methods would blend in with today's policing," he said. In the show and in an interview, Friedman comes across as a no-nonsense, unapologetic guy. "If I said you were under arrest, you were under ar- rest," he recalled. "You could go easy or hard, but you were under arrest." Asked what the public misunderstands about police work, Friedman said, "I don't think they understand how dangerous even the menial jobs we do--breaking up a family dispute or pulling over a vehicle--can be. You don't knowwho is in that car. Did he commit a murder or a robbery. Did they jump bail?" But you don't need to take Friedman's word for it. One of the re-enactments on the six-episode series begins with what seems like a family dispute but ends in gunfire. Friedman and his partner, Kalman Ungar, walk into an apartment and aman jumps out of a hallway and starts to fire at them. Ungar is hit five times but the shooter--who, according to the show's version, had just beat up his girlfriend--seems unscathed, despite the num- ber of shots aimed at him. With his revolver empty, he attacks Friedman. In hand- to-hand combat, Friedman uses the last bullet in his gun to shoot the criminal. Fortunately, Ungar sur- vived his wounds. The shooter did not. (A contemporaneous New York Times account of the same 1972 shooting says the shooter had reported a robbery, and had mistaken the plainclothes detectives for the thieves.) Friedman says he never experienced anti-Semitism on the job. "People saw that I could handle myself," he said. "And I think I gave abetter impres- sion of Jews because I could handle myself." Back in Friedman's day, the department had a reputation for being an Irish stronghold. The NYPD is more diverse now, and that"is a good thing, without a doubt" he said. "It reflects the makeup of the city. Good cops come in all shapes, sizes and colors. It's the person." Friedman's hard-nosed attitude vanishes when he is askedwhich life he likes better. He laughs, then says: "There's nothing better than being a cop on the street. There's nothing better in the world than taking bad guys off the street. It was like an adrenaline rush. "But that's a different life that's behind me," he adds. "Now it's nice to be recognized and meet people interested in my story." Safer, too. It's not hard finding Brandeis University alumni in the Jewish world. They're probably in your neighbor- hood, your office--maybe even your home. But there's also plenty of Brandeis DNA in places you might least expect it, from Hollywood to the boardroom. Here are some celebrities you might not know spent their formative years at the Jewish-founded nonsectarian university outside of Boston. A Graceful star Debra Messing had high hopes for her acting career when she arrived as an under- graduate at Brandeis. Having starred in numerous plays at her high school in Rhode Island, Messing eventually would make it big with her role as Grace Adler in the groundbreaking NBC sitcom "Will & Grace." But at her first audition for a play in college, Messing failed to get the part. She didn't let the setback derail her dream. Messing soon became a star in the Brandeis arts scene under the tutelage of Ted Kazanoff, the celebrated theater chair whom Messing says "changed my life," and after graduating summa cum laude in 1990 won admission to an elite acting school in New York. In 2003, Messing's work as the funny, smart, quirky (and, of course, Jewish) best friend of two gay men on "Will & Grace" earned her the Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series. Starting Sept. 28, Messing will be reprising her role as Grace in a 10-episode revival of the NBC hit. In the interim, Messing has done more shows than she can count, including another NBC show, "Smash," developed by fellow Brandeis alumna Theresa Rebeck. If she could go back and give advice to her 20-something self, Messing told Haute Living recently that she'd say: "It's gonnabe OK. There is no race. You are an artist; follow your instincts. You are beautiful as you are." The 44th president of the United States (sort of) He became president thanks to a rigged election, narrowly escaped asexscandalthatcould have derailed his presidency and allows his passions to rule his decision-making about matters of war. We're talking, of course, about the fictional 44th president of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant III. Tony Goldwyn, who plays the president on Shonda Rhimes' popular ABC drama "Scandal," isn't just a gradu- ate of Brandeis, he's also the scion of a very famous Jewish family. His great-grandfather was the legendary movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, who came to America as a penni- less teenager a couple of years after the death of his Polish Hasidic father and eventually became one of Hollywood's most powerful producers. Not long after graduating drama school, Goldwyn got his first big break playing the perfidious villain in "Ghost," the 1990 blockbuster starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. Though now a star on one of the most popular shows on television, Goldwyn hasn't forgotten his roots. He has stayed involved with Brandeis, and in a 2015 visit recalled his alma mater as being a "very entrepreneurial place." "If students weren't cast in shows," he said, "they would get together and put on their own." The female CEO with Playboy credentials Christie Hefner is one of the most accomplished business- women in America, her name synonymous with the world- famous company she once ran. That's thanks both to her work and her family name: Hefner ran Playboy Enter- prises, the company started by her father, Hugh Hefner. When Christie Hefner became Playboy's president at the tender age of 29, she quickly put to rest any doubts about nepotism ruining the family business. She transformed Playboy into a global giant, promoting its international, television and digital expan- sion, and eventually became the longest-serving female CEO of a public company. Hefner's achievements started early. At Brandeis, where she majored in English and American literature, she earned the rare distinction of election to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. After graduating summa cum laude, she took a job as a journalist for a year be- fore joining Playboy. Now the chairwoman of the brand and innovation strategy company Hatch Beauty, Hefner also for a time served as director of the influential progressive think tank the Center for American Progress. The New York Times columnist Before going to Beirut and Jerusalem, before he discov- ered the world is flat--not to mention hot and crowded-- Thomas Friedman was a book- ish student at Brandeis with a passion for the Middle East. Friedman spent three of his high school summers at Israe- li kibbutzim, and at Brandeis majored in Mediterranean studies. After graduating in 1975 he began his experiential education, winning a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford and eventually becoming a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. The winner of three Pulit- zer Prizes, Friedman today is one of the world's most famous and influential newspaper col- umnists. He's also a frequent visitor to the Brandeis cam- pus, where he regularly talks to students and is a member of the journalism program advisory board. The woman who would not be denied Deborah Lipstadt was well known in Jewish and academ- ic circles long before actress RachelWeisz's portrayal of her in the 2016 film "Denial" made her famous among filmgoers. An accomplished Holocaust historian, Lipstadt is one of the many academic stars in Jewish-related fields to hail from Brandeis. But she was one of the early ones: When she graduated in 1972, Lipstadt was only the 100th person to earn a doc- torate at Brandeis. (Her dis- sertation was on the American Zionist leader Louis Lipsky.) Then she went on to distin- guish herself as the world's leading expert on Holocaust denial, eventually landing at Emory University. Lipstadt was catapulted to fame when Holocaust denier David Irving sued her for libel in 1996, not long after publi- cation of her book "Denying the Holocaust." Lipstadt's subsequent defense in an English courtroom, which laid bare Irving's lie that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, dealt a serious blow to the cottage industry of Holocaust denial. Lipstadt became a hero, and her 2005 book about her experience, "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier," won wide acclaim. "Denial," the popular film about Lipstadt's fight with Irving, propelled her celebrity to new heights, but Lipstadt remains a serious academic interested in serious work. "I now have a platform to reach people that I didn't have before," she said recently. "It's incredibly humbling. What it has done is make me try to be even more carefulaboutwhat I say because people tend to pay more attention. With greater prominence comes greater responsibility." This article was spon- sored by and produced in partnership with Brandeis University, a university found- ed by the American Jewish community, dedicated to academic excellence, criti- cal thinking, openness to all and tikkun olam. This article was produced by JTA's native content team.