Recently, our country was rocked by a horrible attack resulting in 11 innocent Jewish Americans being killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The evil represented by this attack, and the monster who carried it out, must be met with us unifying and standing strong together. Though this was a direct attack on Jewish Americans, it was also an attack on all Americans of all faiths and political allegiances.
That unity was very much on display at a memorial service at the JCC Rockland on October 29, where I joined the thousands in attendance from all faiths in honoring those lost. The following Saturday, I was proud to, join our neighbors, along with the kids at the Orangetown Jewish Center (OJC) to celebrate Shabbat. Rabbi Scheff, the other clergy, and the congregants were all incredibly welcoming. That visit, that prior week’s attack in Pittsburgh, and some recent commentary on social media, made me feel the need to make some things clear.
Rockland is a place with a very unique set of political issues related to overdevelopment, education in public and private schools, and enforcement of codes and social service laws. These are issues worthy of focus, and ones I will continue to advocate on and fight for: proper education of all kids in Rockland, whether in East Ramapo, a New Square yeshiva, or in our districts elsewhere in Rockland; ensuring that development is both done in keeping with proper planning and is open and diverse for anyone who wants to live there; and ensuring that lawbreakers who put families in danger through unsafe construction or steal from the taxpayer by committing welfare fraud are called out and prosecuted.
But the moment the discussion (or motivation for the discussion) goes from addressing those issues to caring more about explicitly religious concerns, or to using deliberately provocative language to refer to religious beliefs, is the moment that a bright line is crossed. This line delineates both the difference between morally right positions and morally reprehensible ones, and the difference between useful language that can accomplish change by reaching people of all persuasions, to include within the Haredi community, and damaging language that can prevent it by hardening preconceived notions and fears, especially within the Haredi community.
It is the responsibility of political leaders to set the tone for public discourse, to be willing to tackle difficult issues, and to do the right thing no matter what. We don’t seem to have much of that these days on either side of the aisle, but I personally will continue to try and live up to that standard. I ask that all of you join me and help set that tone going forward, as I know most of you do already. It’s the only way we will truly be able to leave a better town, county, state, and nation for our kids and theirs.