July 19, 2024
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(Y)Our Voice Matters, (Y)Our Vote Matters

The Dec. 12 Teaneck Council agenda listed resolutions 362-2023 and 367-2023 to approve parameters for long planned memorials to the Holocaust and enslaved Africans. (The relevant context is that these efforts have been worked on and supported by the township and prior councils for over 10 years yet remain in the planning phases for a variety of reasons, including inadequate funding from private sources.)

In a session where inflammatory remarks such as “this is a Jewish town,” open denial of antisemitism through classic antisemitic rationalizations, and allegations of attempted assault by auto were cheered, a continued show of unified support from township leadership for these collaborative and educational efforts against bigotry and ignorance should have been uncontroversial.

Recently elected members of council questioned if the Holocaust memorial was necessary, mischaracterized past spending to imply suspect political funding, and asked if the township should commit to maintaining, lighting and providing security for the sites. In response to Councilwoman Belcher who asked how this effort would benefit the entire diverse township, Steve Fox (co-chair of the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Education Center Committee), told the councilmembers that the lessons of the Holocaust, defeating racism and combating genocide, are universal and as important today as they ever were.

During the council’s response to good and welfare, Deputy Mayor Gee explained that her position on the memorial changed due to the citizens who came out, voiced opposition to the current plan, and asked questions. She continued that she was no longer supporting the resolution on the memorial at this time because of the lack of vocal support from the community. Replying to the following comment from Gee, “everyone who spoke said ‘I don’t think this should happen,’’’ Councilman Schwartz explained that his vote of no to table the discussion (along with Mayor Pagan, Deputy Mayor Katz, and Councilwomen Goldberg and Orgen) was based on communication and discussions with the entire community of 41,000 Teaneck residents.

This exchange and discussion signals how important it is to show up, have a seat at the table, and be heard. I urge all members of the community to join meetings on Zoom. Attend council sessions in person. Apply for appointment to advisory boards. Email your elected officials. Write letters in local newspapers. Ask questions. Identify an issue and comment during meetings. Vote.

(Y)Our voice matters.

(Y)Our vote matters.

Avi Berliner

Teaneck

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