July 21, 2024
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Councilwoman Hillary Goldberg: ‘Words Matter’

On October 17, 2023 this Council unanimously passed the Resolution condemning Hamas after their barbaric terrorist attack on October 7. The resolution stated: “WHEREAS, the collective life experiences of Jews show that each time Israel is forced to defend herself, it is universally followed by an increase in antisemitic
attacks worldwide, with Jews being attacked simply for being Jewish, including in Teaneck.”

None of us ever thought we would be seeing the world we are living in today.

I am a third generation lifelong Teaneck resident: My parents, my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, including Senator Matthew Feldman, would not be silent at Hitler salutes, a hateful protest; yes when there are chants of “Hitler was right,” “Go back to Auschwitz,” “Your hostages are dead” and calling Teaneck Jewish residents rapists, pedophiles, Nazis and terrorists, just to name a few, or as our houses of worship being attacked, as our residents feeling terrorized weekly, and like my grandfather before me, neither will I. I will not be silenced in the face of antisemitism. I will not be silenced as members of the Jewish community are afraid, or when houses of worship are threatened.

I was at Congregation Keter Torah on March 10. This is the Israeli flag that was desecrated that day.

This Sunday, Jews in Teaneck and across the world will observe Purim, a holiday that marks the defeat of Haman and his efforts to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. Queen Esther bravely stood up and defended her people. In the face of extreme danger, and risk to her life, she stood up to speak and save the Jewish people. I still find it heartbreaking that it is considered brave and courageous of me to condemn Hamas, and support the Jewish community after terror and in the face of the worst antisemitism in nearly a century. It seems this is the moment I was called for. I hope all of our Jewish residents will be safe this Purim.

The Holocaust didn’t start with the gas chambers. The Holocaust started with blaming the Jews for the economy, with blaming the Jews for the result of a war, with blaming the Jews for the misfortune of others; the Holocaust started with words. Words matter. Normalizing antisemitism puts Jews in danger.

Normalizing antisemitism is what has forced us to leave country after country, has put us in camps and gas chambers, and normalizing antisemitism is why having a place to go, when, not if, but when, our neighbors turn on us, is vital. Every day it feels like that moment is here in Teaneck.

Let me be blunt for any elephants in the room, or those who left, and listening on Zoom, Jews are not weaponizing antisemitism; telling Jews to watch Sean King is the equivalent of telling others to learn by watching David Duke. Refusing to vote for a person based on their religion is antisemitism. Accusing Jews of being agents of the Israeli government is antisemitism. Gaslighting Jews, denying the war crimes committed by Hamas, denying the Holocaust, and not recognizing the pain and experience of the Jewish community is antisemitism. Blaming Jews for the policies of Israel is antisemitism. Calling Jews Nazis is antisemitism. Antisemitism is not a difference of opinion. And I want to say officially that I have waited three years to say this, I condemn the attack on Councilwoman Orgen, and will always stand against antisemitism and with the Jewish community in the face of antisemitism.

Councilwoman Orgen, I am sorry I wasn’t brave enough to do that three years ago when I wanted to. Not being allowed to condemn antisemitism and stand with the Jewish community of Teaneck because of politics is antisemitism. Antisemitism is not something we don’t like to hear. Antisemitism is dangerous. Antisemitism is hate.

On October 7, Mayor Pagan reached out to me to ask how I was, if my family was ok, and to remind me that he was there for me. My friend Chondra Young joined my parents for Shabbat dinner just the night before October 7, and has checked on their well-being and the well-being of her friends and members of this community regularly for months. And Cheryl Hall, who has taken the time to learn and listen and speak out, and speak the truth, both privately, at this Council meeting, at community meetings, and at the ABCR meetings, thank you. I am proud to call them my friends.

This community is hurt, it is scared, it is broken, and it is not broken because we condemned Hamas. It is broken because of antisemitism. It is broken because of fear.

For those wanting people to get out of their silos, for those demanding unity, fear is not a way to bring people out of their silos. To those demanding peace and unity, and not recognizing, accepting, or believing the pain that members of this community have expressed, the fear that has been expressed; to those who promised us peace and unity; to those accusing Jews of weaponizing antisemitism; to those who denied the sexual violence and murder of Jews, you held all the cards on October 31, why did you give them away?

In the words of historian Ian Kershaw, “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate but paved with indifference.” We can’t stand idly by and allow this to happen yet again, here in Teaneck. Never again is now. Bring them home.

Councilwoman Hillary Goldberg

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