|Rabbi Neil Tow addresses participants at the rally, which included many young children. Speakers, from left, included Glen Rock Mayor John van Keuren, Father Tom Wisniewski of the town’s St. Catharine Roman Catholic Church, Tow, and Rabbi David Saltzman of Temple Israel in Ridgewood.|
Rabbi Neil Tow, religious leader of the Glen Rock Jewish Center, is heartened by Sunday’s turnout at a community rally in support of the Glen Rock family whose home was vandalized by three 13-year-old boys on Dec. 23.
“We had more than 350 people,” he said, “citizens of Glen Rock as well as leaders of houses of worship.”
The event, held outside the temporary headquarters of the town’s borough hall, drew a “strong showing” of clergy – Jewish, Christian, Sikh, and Muslim – said Tow.
According to rally organizers, supporters came from neighboring towns as well.
Rabbi David Saltzman, interim rabbi of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center in Ridgewood, was there, together with some of his congregants. Rabbi Elyse Frischman of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes was there as well. The family whose house was vandalized belongs to her congregation.
Also present was John van Keuren, the mayor of Glen Rock, as well as Avon Morgan, a representative of the Community Relations Advisory Board of Glen Rock and Ridgewood.
Tow noted that while community groups have come together before in the face of bias incidents – the Community Relations Advisory Board was an outgrowth of such meetings, he said – he has talked with the mayor about convening a group of town and school officials, together with clergy, to discuss ways to be “proactive and preventative” in the fight against hateful speech.
Detective Eric Reamy of the Glen Rock Police Department said this was the third such incident involving juveniles and hateful graffiti in the past 10 years in Glen Rock. Each one has been an isolated case, Reamy said, and not cause for concern about a trend.
According to Steven D. Cherry, Glen Rock chief of police, “two of the teens [involved in the vandalism] were arrested and charged with criminal mischief and bias intimidation, and the case has been forwarded to the Bergen County Family Court.”
The third was charged only with criminal mischief, said Reamy.
Cherry noted that the court will make a determination whether to keep the case and go to trial or refer the case to the Juvenile Conference Committee, an arm of the court that he described as “less formal.”
In planning Sunday’s rally, Tow said he had e-mailed notices to fellow clergy, asking them to tell congregants about the event. The story of the vandalism also appeared in several newspapers, including this one.
“Word spread,” he said.
Speakers at the event talked about unity, peace, and tolerance, said Tow, adding that “it had a positive tone.”
Satisfied by the turnout, Tow said the rally was a “good starting point. It was positive and inspirational to get moving in the right direction,” he said, noting the need for “education, outreach, and programs to bring more sensitivity and awareness – especially to youth” – of the implications of living in a diverse society.
“We’re trying to explain why hateful speech is so horrible,” he said, noting that the Kronemer family, whose house was defaced by a swastika accompanied by the word “Jew,” participated in Sunday’s event and expressed appreciation for the support they have received in the aftermath of the vandalism.
“What’s important to me is making sure that people are aware of why the swastika is a shameful and disgraceful symbol to be placed anywhere,” Tow told the Standard.