Statement of principles regarding civil discourse in northern Bergen County

Statement of principles regarding civil discourse in northern Bergen County

The president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the heads of the county’s two rabbinic associations offer this open letter and statement of principles to the community.

In today’s society, nuanced and respectful discourse appears to be in decline. Communication technology, among other factors, has enabled too many of us to disengage from each other and toss invectives back and forth with little inclination to temper and focus our respective messages. Old stereotypes and attitudes have found new life under these conditions, as it is easier to react and respond without recourse.

The construction of an eruv in Mahwah and the surrounding area, and new ordinances aimed at limiting access to public parks and open spaces, highlights this sad reality. In an attempt to promote solidarity among the Jewish community and civil discourse amongst all residents, we have established the following set of principles:

• The establishment of an eruv is legally permitted. We encourage the promoters of the eruv to follow all the due administrative processes needed.

• An eruv is a benefit to Jewish communities and is unobtrusive to local communities.

• Opposition to an eruv is protected by the free speech amendment. However, opponents of the eruv must have the moral imperative to conduct their speech free of hatred and bias. Any anti-Semitic elements must be condemned.

• The opposition to members of a particular group with a different culture moving into a community and changing its character is xenophobia, plain and simple, and runs counter to the sense of diversity that strengthens our country.

• The aforementioned notwithstanding, we urge our brothers and sisters from the Jewish community who may have interest in moving into Mahwah and the surrounding area to be acutely sensitive to the values of their future neighbors. Being good citizens and neighbors sanctifies God’s name in this world.

The Jewish New Year, which was celebrated only a short time ago, begins with a 10-day period of introspection and self-examination for both individuals and communities. We hope and pray that this statement of principles will create such an atmosphere in northern New Jersey and usher in a year marked by a higher level of discourse and greater mutual understanding. We strongly encourage all residents involved in these conversations to uphold the high standards of civil discourse and leave hurtful and insensitive language behind.

Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner,
Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El, Closter
President, North Jersey Board of Rabbis

Rabbi Chaim Poupko,
Congregation Ahavath Torah, Englewood
President, Rabbinical Council of
Bergen County

Stephanie Goldman
President, Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey

Jason M. Shames
CEO, Jewish Federation of Northern

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