April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024
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One of the most important aspects of our recent communal mission to Israel was internalizing, from the other side of the Atlantic, how deeply our brothers and sisters in Israel appreciate the Teaneck and broader Bergen County community. From the horrors of the pogrom of Oct. 7 and of course, for many years and decades before that, our community has proudly demonstrated unsurpassed support for the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

It should be a great source of pride for all of us that we have, in every measurable way—from our tzedakot to our tefillot to the supplies that we have sent, and of course, to our missions—lived up to Chazal’s mandate of a universal obligation to defend the Jewish people in a milchemet mitzvah, אפילו חתן מחדרו וכלה מחופתה, when we are so viciously and brutally attacked.

As you are all aware, this has been done in a challenging local environment. Our community has been the target of ceaseless efforts to intimidate and antagonize us for our support for our brothers and sisters in Israel.

Tragically, many of these agitators have embraced, with sophistry and cynicism, the eliminationist and truly genocidal rhetoric of Hamas, “From the River to the Sea,” a phrase unequivocally intended by those who slaughtered, burned and raped on Oct. 7 as nothing short of a Final Solution, the violent destruction of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and beyond.

Through it all, our community has conducted itself with profound dignity and courage. We have not been intimidated, nor have we been silenced. As the Navi Yeshayahu mandated, “for the sake of Zion I shall not be still, and for the sake of Jerusalem I shall not be silent.”

The attempts of these agitators have been a resounding and repeated failure and our communal strategy of ignoring these provocations and eschewing counterprotest has proven itself time and again, so as to deny these provocateurs the attention and confrontation they desperately crave.

Recently, the agitators have escalated their tactics and announced intentions to try to intimidate the Jewish community from holding or hosting Israel-related events in our own synagogues. In one case, this appears linked to hateful, slanderous and preposterous claims aired at a recent council meeting and seemingly validated by a sitting member of council, that the event was open only to members of the Jewish faith.

These despicable attempts to portray our community as racist or prejudiced are belied not only by the specific facts of this event, but by the decades, and indeed generations, that we have spent living here peacefully with all of our neighbors, from every race and creed.

Let us be absolutely clear, should anyone doubt it. Our collective hand remains outstretched to all of our neighbors, from every walk of life, to live together here in harmony, and never to be bullied and divided by those who spew vile hatred and seek to sow disharmony. We believe in the sanctity of all human life, in the preciousness of every human being as having been created in the Divine image, and will never waver in our civic commitment to all of our neighbors.

Let us be absolutely clear on another matter: while we seek no confrontation, nor intend any provocation, we will never self-censor, especially in our own synagogues, our love and bond with the people and land of Israel. No one will intimidate us to surrender a pillar of our faith tradition from the moment that Avraham was commanded to walk in the land. No one will cause us to abandon our brothers and sisters in Israel in this hour of peril.

And, let us further be clear that this not only makes us good Jews, but no less important in this context, good Americans. What has made this country great is our commitment to certain ideals, including freedom of speech and religion, which were denied our people across the millenia. Yielding to the hateful silencers and canceling events in a deeply misguided attempt to avoid confrontation—which we do not initiate nor seek—can and will only lead to further intimidation, to the point where walking down the street with a yarmulke will be taken as an act of “Zionist aggression.” Conversely, denouncing genocidal terror and expressing support for a strong and robust America-Israel relationship, is an act of patriotism that can help restore our civic tradition here in this most blessed of countries.

Finally, let us be clear regarding the deep gratitude our community has for the truly exceptional members of our town management, Dean Kazinci and his deputy, Tom Rowe, Chief of Police Andrew McGurr, and every single officer of the Teaneck Police Department and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. If America is to remain the great beacon of light of freedom to the world, the one truly exceptional country, it will be because of these exceptional Americans, and others like them.

In this time of great communal stress, they have conducted themselves with the highest degree of professionalism, securing the rights and safety of all of Teaneck’s residents, including those of the Jewish community. We have not requested, nor have we received, any special treatment. We have simply been the beneficiaries of their commitment to law, order and to protecting our constitutional and civil rights, along with every other law-abiding resident of this township.

It is indeed deeply regrettable that due to the repeated and unsuccessful attempts of agitators to target and intimidate the Jewish community, a total and absolute failure, our law enforcement has been strained and taxpayers have an additional burden to bear. There is nothing more important to our sense of ethics than hakarat hatov, and so I encourage the entire community to express this gratitude to town management and law enforcement, in person and in writing, at every available opportunity. They can be reached, respectively, at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].

To conclude where I began, I could not be prouder of our community. In this historic hour, when the Jewish people have been forced to battle for our survival, you have been courageous and kind, brave and generous, strong and prudent. There can be no doubt, as far as Teaneck’s Jewish community is concerned, that this has been our finest hour.

With unshakeable devotion to our brothers and sisters both here and in the land of Israel, and our arms outstretched, with great affection, to all of our neighbors who seek to live in harmony and mutual respect, we move forward, with love, dignity and poise, secure in the knowledge that the Rock of Israel will never abandon His People.

Rabbi Daniel Fridman is the rabbi at The Jewish Center of Teaneck.

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