Friday, June 05, 2020

On Sunday evening, January 12, the Jewish Center of Teaneck will host its third annual MLK Jr event, inviting the greater community to a panel discussion with Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, former Mayor Kevie Feit and former Town Manager William Broughton. The program will be moderated by Rabbi Daniel Fridman and will focus on communal harmony in a polarized age.

In the wake of the recent anti-Semitic attacks in Jersey City, Monsey and throughout New York City, as well as the recent Texas church shooting, the conversation surrounding communal harmony is necessary now more than ever. Maintaining peace has become increasingly challenging in an environment where there is heightened animosity often turning violent.

Locally, community leaders proudly recognize a diverse environment that is inclusive and united. Treating others with respect and tolerance has been the blueprint for Teaneck since its establishment. Former Mayor Kevie Feit grew up in Teaneck and remembers a childhood where everyone got along and interacted with kindness and respect. “As a child, I attended programs at the Teaneck Rec Center, Sports and Arts, and played baseball at Teaneck Western Little League,” he recalls fondly. “The attendees of these programs were mixed and representative of Teaneck as a whole.”

He added that many of the people who were active in the local government from the1960s through the 1980s firmly believed that we were all better off as one community with shared experiences. The culture here has always been more progressive, said Feit, who commended Teaneck for being the first community in the United States that voted to desegregate schools voluntarily in 1964.

Feit, whose history in Teaneck includes resident, councilman, mayor, TVAC captain/president and active member in local synagogues, continues to perpetuate the message he grew up with. “We need to have more programs that bring people together in a non-political and non-religious setting so we can focus on things that we all have in common: caring for elderly parents, child-rearing, managing finances, art, photography and music.” We need opportunities to join together beyond the occasional overlap at Dunkin’ Donuts, he joked.

The message we are trying to get across is one that was expressed decades ago by the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, explained Rabbi Fridman. Dr. King tremendously impacted society and was revolutionary in facilitating change. His message, however, was not only about overturning racial injustice. He also embodied a spiritual mission intended to influence humankind. The idea that we are all created equal and deserve respect and dignity was paramount to his teachings.

As Jews, this message is a guiding Torah principle and certainly one worth discussing in today’s day where so much of the population focuses on dehumanizing one another. “It is important that we actively try to maintain an oasis of tolerism and pluralism in this highly charged environment we live in,” said Rabbi Fridman, who believes Teaneck is a respectable town where community members genuinely coexist in a peaceful and appropriate way.

“I am glad to be invited to the Jewish Center to honor MLK and to support communal harmony. I am especially looking forward to hearing about the experiences of our former mayor and former township manager and learn more about the challenges of governing a diverse town like Teaneck,” said Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin.

In Teaneck, elected officials and spiritual leaders stand together in support of communal harmony. Our focus, as Feit elucidated, should be on breaking down barriers, not creating new divides.

The event begins at 6 p.m. and will include a discussion followed by a Q&A session.