Since May there has been a rise in anti-Semitic and anti-Black Lives Matter incidents as reported by the Anti-Defamation League, our District Attorney Mimi Rocah and local newspapers. While the Town of Greenburgh purports to support a zero tolerance policy against hate, I see gaps. I also see opportunities for us to take a united stand against hate.
With regard to a resident’s anti-Semitic statement made during public comments at the June 9, 2021 Town Board meeting, it was quite surprising that no one, including the Town Supervisor, called it out in real time nor explained that such a statement of using Judaism as an accusation to define a group is wrong and inappropriate. On the surface, it could appear like a simple factual error in saying that Edgemont is 90 or 95 percent Jewish (which is not true, and disregards that in reality over half of the student body are also people of color according to the district’s demographic data). But, when we listen and learn, we understand how the dangerous notion of Jews controlling the media, finance, government or a hamlet has historically led to isolating, scapegoating and then victimizing the Jews. It is no wonder that a mere incorrect fact, when used in an accusatory manner against someone who is Jewish who happens to be an opponent, or even an adversary in the moment, is a lightning rod of division and hate. As Town Supervisor, I would ensure that we speak up in real-time against any hateful or biased comments. It will not matter whether I agree or disagree with the policy issue at hand. Zero tolerance means speaking up and standing up even when it is not convenient.
What we see instead is a hesitancy to address acts of hate, intolerance or bias. Just hours after the Town put up a sign in support of Black Lives Matter, as part of a “Welcome to Greenburgh” sign, it was ripped away in the dead of night by a truck using chains to pull apart and drag the sign away. It’s been over a month since that hate crime, and despite repeated requests, the sign has not yet been replaced. Whatever the bureaucratic excuse for delay, we all know that every day we wait is another day the haters win because they are successful in silencing the message of support. Moreover, this delay is another lightning rod down our spines that we don’t matter, and we become afraid that our community is not standing up for us. It is no surprise that a couple weeks later another similar sign on private property was torn down, and then a week after that a white supremacist banner was flown on a bridge in our Town.
Not only have I been in government, and served at local non-profits, I am also a member of the activist community, and I know one thing for sure: We must activate immediately to stamp out hate. We must speak up against anti-Semitism loudly and clearly in the moment and afterward, and we must bring stakeholders together to support each other and show a sign of strength in the aftermath of an anti-BLM hate crime.
We are stronger together.
I want to thank all Jewish people that have stood next to and stood up for Black Lives Matter and the protection of black lives. I want to thank all Jewish people who have consistently fought for the liberation of people of color and women.
We must do the same for them when hate arises and antisemitism arises. We must, as a community in support of human rights, stamp out all emblems of hate, and replace them with a vocal, vibrant and public display of unity. The time has come to unify and give new meaning with word and deed to the idea of zero tolerance.