May 21, 2024
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Teaneck ‘Garden’ Memorial Garners Multicultural Support

An impressive audience gathered at the Teaneck Library on the evening of May 24 to inaugurate the many multicultural events that are being planned in advance of the construction of two memorials on the Teaneck Municipal Green. The event was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council on the Humanities and is the first co-sponsored by the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Education Committee, the Enslaved African Memorial Committee and the Teaneck Public Library. The two memorials and the allocated space within the library will be known as the Garden to Nurture Human Understanding.

In his opening remarks, Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin praised the joint project as “the fulfillment of the American dream of cooperation.” He applauded the financial backing obtained so far and is looking toward the planned winter gala as a further fundraising opportunity, to which he invited volunteer participation.

Senator Loretta Weinberg referred to the project as a “three-legged-stool,” each leg dependent on the two others. “This unique project will convey the message of the two memorials and follow up with resources and programming in the library. We are in the throes of our new budget and your project is at the top of the list.”

Former Teaneck Mayor Paul Ostrow, now serving as the head of the Teaneck Library board, shared that the library has been partnering with the memorial committees for the last three years. Ostrow is excited at the collaboration with Teaneck resident and architect Anthony Iovino, AIA, whose proposal includes structural renovations to the library that include additions of new classrooms and spacious conference areas, expanded display areas and the incorporation of state-of-the-art computer stations.

Anita Bakshi, who holds a PhD in Architecture from Cambridge and lectures widely about the role of memorials worldwide, introduced the three architects. She praised the Teaneck project as unique in “presenting two histories in communication and highlighting connections in resilience, survival and continuity.” She complimented the proposed presentation of histories through engaging formats including first-hand testimonies, the fostering of understanding and the connection to contemporary issues of propaganda and discrimination.

Alan H. Hantman, FAIA, architect for the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Education Center, has among his credentials the design of the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C. Hantman sees this three-pronged project as a “dream through which we will all be connected.” He praised the Holocaust design for its maintenance of a serene garden atmosphere while memorializing the six million who perished in the Holocaust, including the relatives of local residents whose names will be recorded on the memorial wall. His intention in the design was to create a picturesque, welcoming environment, with a pillar of hope in its center, to be followed up with opportunities for further education through the reading rails within the memorial and extensive resources in the library.

Rodney Leon, AIA, architect for the Enslaved African Memorial Committee, is the designer of the African Burial Ground Memorial in New York City as well as the Ark of Return Memorial housed at the United Nations. Leon praised the Teaneck project as an example of “people of good will acting collectively.” He feels that the overall effect of the Garden to Nurture Human Understanding will be to “embrace differences and celebrate similarities. In pursuing that goal, it parallels the West African concept that we must look back to the past in order to understand the future.” The video shown illustrated the impressive Enslaved African Memorial consisting of four separate areas, each representing a key concept in the African struggle for freedom: endurance, resilience, slavery and resistance.

Among the attendees at the event were Bruce Prince and Steve Fox, co-chairmen of the Holocaust Memorial and Education Committee, and former Teaneck Deputy Mayor Dr. Henry Pruitt, who proposed situating the memorials on the Teaneck municipal green. Representatives of Senator Corey Booker and US Representative Josh Gottheimer were also in attendance.

For further information about the memorials visit www.nnjholocaustmemorial.org and www.EAMCNJ.org

By Pearl Markovitz

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