A special moment in time not only nears but also provides for opportunity to clearly see that much joins us in our beautiful county. The confluence of two major faith’s holy seasons – Easter and Passover.
With Good Friday, Easter and the start of Passover occurring near simultaneously this year, we should not ignore the shared symbolism. As Christians mark the crucifixion of Christ and our Jewish residents commemorate their ancestors’ hurried flight out of Egypt, we must acknowledge a common history. Just as Jesus’ resurrection from the dead led to the start of Christianity, the Israelite’s liberation from Egypt led to the beginning of Judaism. Both Easter and Passover represent cultural freedom and rebirth – two principles needed to unite this county.
Our Human Rights Commissioner has embarked on a unique initiative that is designed to build a new pattern of relationships across religious, ethnic and cultural divides. We have been bringing together community, faith-based and government leaders to talk about proven solutions that have changed perceptions in neighborhoods all across our nation. We have had the frank and open dialogue we need to build one Rockland County across all difference and diversity.
In Rockland County, we have more than 100 places of worship. More people go to church here every week, or to synagogue, or to a mosque or other place of worship than to their bank. A recent Gallup poll found more Americans believe religion is directly important to their daily lives than in any other advanced, industrialized country in the world. With such a full range of religious practices on active display in Rockland County, shouldn’t we look for ways to purge ourselves of intolerance?
Our rich diversity is our powerful strength, if we respect it. We are clearly stronger as a county when we use the full energy and talents of all of our people, regardless of religious faith, race or national origin.
A newborn child today does not know how to hate or stereotype another human being; that behavior must be learned. And, intolerance typically begins with quiet acts of indignity at home. To truly move forward as one community, we must find a way to honestly and openly discuss our differences and educate one another, to celebrate all the diversity of our towns and villages, so that we are stronger, not weaker.
Even before my first day in office, I made a decision to meet regularly with residents from every corner of Rockland County. During the past five years, my administration has successfully engaged with all communities in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication and improve relationships. I’ve met personally with civic groups, clergy, educators, labor unions, social clubs and students to show responsiveness in government, transparency and inclusion. I’ve heard the concerns of thousands of my neighbors, and I will continue to work toward a united Rockland County.
While we have the occasion to see the ignorant and the hateful, we know that the vast majority of our residents are people of good conscience who recognize that much, much more joins us than divides us. People who do good deeds and offer regular outreach to all their neighbors. As your county executive, I will not allow the misguided voices of a few to drown out the deeper sense of community that drives us toward trust, openness and cultural humility.
It is not enough to condemn divisive speech or acts of intolerance. We must work to foster mutual respect. We rightfully should celebrate the good things happening around us each and every day. We must learn to partner with our neighbors to build a better Rockland County – together.