April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Remember March 10, 2024, where you were and what you were doing. That was the day that friends, neighbors and elected officials welcomed into Teaneck hate and ignorance. Where were you? Where were our community leaders protecting a community institution? Where were our rabbis and clergy standing strong together up to hate and protecting our spiritual home? Where were our organizations who represent the pillars of our community and best that we have to offer? Do they not care? Should we not care? Where were we?

The mob that gathered in Teaneck across from a Jewish institution was not there to stop a real estate event; demand a ceasefire; call for a humanitarian release of women and children being held as hostages; protest a resolution; or promote peace, unity and understanding. They were there because I was there, you are here, Israel exists, and a Jewish institution provided the thin veil of an excuse.

I was there to witness them calling me, calling you, calling all Jews murderers, Nazis, Fascists, rapists, pedophiles, baby killers, genocidal maniacs, [expletive deleted] pigs. I saw the mob grab a man and the flag of the state of Israel he was carrying, as he was walking on the sidewalk while they stood in the street, entitled to the same public space for freedom of expression. I saw the police have to go to pull him out. I saw an Israeli flag, ripped in half and thrown in the street to be driven over. I also saw when the police would not go to pick it up at the repeated requests of citizens and a member of council. I saw a friend, while standing on private property, with permission, told by a police officer to quiet down and move away when responding to vile comments because it would make his job more difficult.

I heard the chants of “Say it loud and say it clear, we don’t want no Zionists here,” “Go back home,” “We are coming for you” and the dog whistle “From the river to the sea” that hopes for an Israel devoid of Jews and has turned into the antisemitic slogan of our day. I saw the signs calling for a return to the “1947 borders.” I saw the water bottles thrown at cars, had spit hurled at me and saw an unidentified red liquid sprayed at citizens. I am aware of the reports of damage to homes displaying Israeli flags, balls of red paint thrown and weapons displayed by passing cars at peaceful, lawful protestors.

Everyone’s first amendment right to say whatever venomous and horrid things they want in the public sphere should be protected and defended. But that also means that I have a duty to listen. When you let people say the quiet part out loud, many will.

But let me share what else I saw. I saw people continue to come to Keter Torah and not be afraid. I saw groups shadow the caravan and mob as they blocked traffic and paraded through town proudly waving American and Israeli flags. I have hope from the young people who came out to protest and demonstrate against the hate and assault they witnessed. They saw and understood that this is their town, their community, and what they were witnessing doesn’t represent Teaneck.

For all who wonder what you would have done on October 7, in 1948, 1939, 1938, 1929, 1828, 1496, 1492, 1147, 1096 and on, your time is now.

I urge you to come to council, board of education and advisory board meetings. If comfortable, express how you feel. Contact local, state and national elected officials to provide positive and constructive feedback. Urge them to denounce these groups, instigators and hateful rhetoric. Let organizations and leadership know how best to support you. Show up. Volunteer. Vote.

Avi Berliner
Teaneck
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