Dear Citizens of Scotch Plains and Fanwood:
We would like to first thank Police Chiefs Trigo and Conley for continually addressing important issues in our community and for their letter last week. We join their outrage at all hateful acts and affirm their concern about people spreading misinformation online. Many religious traditions teach about the power of speech and that we all should be mindful in how we speak and spread information whether true or not.
We also write to add the following important points. While this incident did not present any direct physical threat to our community, and we are grateful for the partnership between the Scotch Plains - Fanwood School District and the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Police Departments for always having the safety of our students as a top priority, it also serves as a reminder of the presence of racist and hateful speech in our communities.
This incident, along with the racist graffiti written on this high school in October 2018, are signs that racism remains a problem locally, one which we encourage everyone to address by learning about the work of various organizations in our community, such as Social Justice Matters (Note the Dialogue Circles on Race), the joint Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Committee (created in partnership with the towns of Scotch Plains and Fanwood, the Board of Education, and Social Justice Matters), and the No Place for Hate and Black Student Union groups at the high school. While Freedom of Speech always remains an important value, spreading hateful speech and rhetoric is morally reprehensible, which is why we condemn the image that was shared last week.
We also view this as a learning opportunity for students to remember that almost anything on social media can be made public, and we encourage everyone, both adults and children, to use those technologies to spread beauty, truth, peace, and justice, instead of the hateful rhetoric as was seen here.
Together, we hope to continue building a beautiful, united, and diverse community in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, one that values peoples of all backgrounds and recognizes the tremendous power of speech to be used for both good and bad.
With blessings and hope for peace in the days ahead,
Members of the Scotch Plains - Fanwood Ministerium
- Rabbi Howard Tilman, Congregation Beth Israel / Ministerium President
- Dr. Joan Mast, Superintendent of Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District
- Kim Decker, CEO, Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA
- Mike Goldstein, Executive Director, JCC of Central NJ
- Leland S. McGee, Esq., Vice President, Social Justice Matters, Inc.
- Rev. David Jahnke, Fanwood Presbyterian Church
- Fr. John J Paladino, Pastor, St. Bartholomew the Apostle Roman Catholic Church
- Father David Santos, Pastoral Associate, St Bartholomew the Apostle Roman Catholic Church
- Elaine Coupe, Director of Community Outreach, St. Bartholomew the Apostle Roman Catholic Church
- Rabbi Joel N. Abraham, Temple Sholom / Ministerium representative to SPF TRHT committee
- Cantor Matt Axelrod, Congregation Beth Israel
- Judith Wussler
- Rev. Ann Marie Alderman, First Unitarian New Jersey
- Eleanor McGovern, Administrator, Fanwood
- Chris Morante, Senior Pastor, Evangel Church
- Cantor Darcie Naomi Sharlein, Temple Sholom
- Rev. Shawn T. Wallace, Sr., St. John's Baptist Church
- Pastor William C. Page, Terrill Road Baptist Church