BY MORT BECKER
I had the great opportunity to participate in a “Not in Our Town” – Clarkstown event which was hosted by the JCC and ably coordinated and arranged by Robert Pitkofsky, Dustin Hausner and Clarkstown Councilmembers Stepahanie Hausner and Daniel Caprara.
In attendance was a diverse crowd ranging from a Chasidic Rabbi and his wife to a group of volunteers who identified themselves as members of Preserve Rockland. Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann and the four town board members were there as well as County Legislator Alden Wolfe.
What brought these people out on a cold winter night? Some came to have the opportunity to voice their anxiety and fear of strangers who come from a very different culture than their own. But most came to sit down together and talk about their differences – to educate each other and be educated. If any of them came because they assumed when they saw the title, “Not in Our Town” that this would be a meeting that would discuss plans for keeping Clarkstown free of undesirable elements. They were in for a surprise.
It was heartening to see close to seventy five people from all walks of life united to combat hate in their town. While opinions varied as to what the root cause of the hatred and vile acts of vandalism in Rockland were, everyone was united in saying that it’s got to stop.
No one wanted to see a repeat of the swastika tree vandalism that occurred at in the woods off Cragmere Circle and Cranford Drive that remained in place for over seven months after being reported to the Clarkstown police, or those that were painted on the fence of New Square, or the detonation of incendiary devices outside the home of two Rabbis.
A powerful and impactful 25 minute video was shown to all in attendance depicting how one town; Billings, Montana united against hate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5yaMhcTCdw . The video emphasized the fact that all of us want a safe place to live and all of us are against hate crimes. No one wants to wait for a serious incident to happen, or for someone to get hurt before standing together to say “Not in out town!” Just ignoring these incidents and saying, “Oh well, that’s another group of people,” will never be the answer. It’s only with a day to day understanding by us and our children that this is not the appropriate way to act, will change happen. We have to put ourselves on the front lines of fighting this war against intolerance.
Everyone can begin to make a difference by liking their page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/notinourtownclarkstown/ and posting your ideas in the comments section. Among the suggestions were to create “Not in Our Town” car magnets, having frequent meetings, speaking about tolerance in our local schools, having special events and activities with representatives of all communities, and organizing a “Not in Our Town” parade. The organizers closing message to all was that together they can wipe out hate in Clarkstown.
It would be a good idea for every town to have an active “Not in Our Town” group.