Alarmed by growing anti-Semitic attacks—across the nation and right around the corner—Bedford’s Town Board last week condemned the targeting of Jews with violence and messages of hate.
Declaring that “hate has no home here,” Supervisor Chris Burdick led the board in a rare Thursday morning meeting. The special session produced a three-page resolution, unanimously adopted, affirming Bedford’s diversity and deploring anti-Semitism.
Convened at town hall Jan. 9, the meeting was called in response to a string of recent outrages, including a bloody machete attack in Rockland County and a property-damage rampage in Yorktown.
Bedford, the resolution declared, “condemns the attacks on the people of the Jewish community and implores all public officials to confront the realities of anti-Semitism and speak out against it, that never again will a large-scale movement be taken up against Jewish people or any group because of their differences.”
In addition to denouncing hate, the resolution set forth specific municipal policies to combat it.
While the policies included what the resolution called “appropriate punishment,” some residents at the meeting cautioned that solving the problem required education more than discipline.
In a public-comment period before the board’s vote, Dr. Jill Leslie Becker called hate a byproduct of “ignorance or a lack of understanding.”
“These are people we want in our community; they’re part of our community.” Her solution: “Let’s try to figure out how to live together,” Becker said. “And I think that comes from education.”
Councilwoman Bobbi Bittker, a key architect of the board resolution, endorsed Becker’s education-over-discipline approach. “Yes, we want that education,” she said, adding, “I don’t think we want it from our police force.”
Patricia Ivry, a Katonah resident, urged the town to bring in outside expertise “rather than trying to figure this out based on our idiosyncratic experiences.”
“I would love the next step [after the resolution’s adoption] to be a plan of implementation,” she said, calling a declaration of good intent alone “vacuous unless there’s a written plan to go with it.”
Burdick noted how Bedford’s diversity has produced a rich panoply of ethnic, racial and religious differences. But, he said, none of those differences divides the community. “We’re all Americans,” he said.
“We felt compelled to take this action in light of the recent anti-Semitic attacks,” the supervisor said.
Last month in Monsey, a machete-wielding attacker burst into a rabbi’s home and slashed five Hasidic Jews celebrating Hanukkah.
Closer to home, a vandalism spree in Yorktown on the first weekend of the new year left a menorah overturned and glass shattered at churches, a library and theater.