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Metro&Beyond: Mahwah Council Repeals Parks Ban

Jacob Kornbluh

Mahwah’s anti-Semitic ban is gone, but undercurrent of bias remains

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

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U nder pressure from a state lawsuit, the Mahwah Township Council in northern New Jersey rescinded a controversial ordinance last week that prohibited out-of-state residents from using the town’s parks. That ban was largely attributed to the fear of Orthodox Jews from neighboring Monsey using the town’s public spaces.

In a 6–1 vote, the council withdrew the ordinance and replaced it with language stating that its parks and playgrounds may be used by “residents and nonresidents alike.”

While pleased with the outcome, Keith Kaplan, vice chair of the Teaneck Planning Board told Mishpacha that “it’s unfortunate that it had to take so long” for the council to act. The vote took place after pressure from residents and nonresidents alike and under the threat of a suit filed by New Jersey’s Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino.

Kaplan, who is also part of a group battling the town for effectively banning eiruvs, said that merely undoing the parks ban without addressing the hatred and animosity toward the Jewish community would not be enough. He said that the council should also confront the anti-Semitism and hatred that has been percolating at council meetings. “I don’t think that lessons have been learned,” Kaplan said. “I don’t think that they care to confront the problems that they have.”

Despite the change in ordinance, Kaplan says he and others will continue to keep the community informed of anti-Jewish bias at the Mahwah city council by circulating video clips of hostile comments and seeking the resignation of some of the councilmembers who contributed to the hostile environment. He said that’s the only way to “heal the divisions that they have caused in the town.” 


New York Crime Hits 60-Year Low

Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off his second term in office this week with some welcome news: The New York Police Department (NYPD) reported last week that crime had fallen to its lowest level since the 1950s. The mayor attributed this success to the city’s neighborhood policing program.

“When community members trust their police officers, know them personally, tell them when someone has an illegal gun, tell them when there is a problem going on between gangs, it’s stopping crime and violence before it can happen,” he said. “This is a big piece of the equation.”

The decline in the crime rate is a boon to de Blasio, whose promises on police reform were met with dire predictions by his opponents. During the 2013 elections, former mayor Rudy Giuliani predicted crime would rise dramatically to the rate reported in the early 1990s — when there were 2,245 killings in New York City — if de Blasio was elected.

Recent years have seen a steady increase in one area, though. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), New York City experienced a 92% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the first three quarters of 2017. Most recently, at least a dozen incidents were reported in which Upper East Side businesses, private apartments, and other public spaces were vandalized with explicit anti-Semitic symbols and swastikas. Two synagogues in Queens also received anti-Semitic phone calls.

“This recent spate of hateful acts reminds us that the fight against anti-Semitism is inextricably linked to the fight against all forms of hate, and therefore must be addressed in all our communities,” said Evan Bernstein, the ADL’s New York regional director. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 692)

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