LIVINGSTON, NJ — During the German City of Frankfurt am Main’s first-ever Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism—a live virtual event held on Tuesday in conjunction with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) in order to “empower the world’s brightest municipal and local leaders to come together to eradicate prejudice and hatred” in their cities—Livingston Mayor Dr. Shawn Klein was one of 44 mayors from 21 countries to participate and one of only three mayors to represent the United States.
According to CAM, policy solutions to anti-Semitism are often enacted at the national or international level when in reality, anti-Semitism is “a local problem that must be solved through mayoral initiatives in the areas of education, law-enforcement and community cohesion.” Recognizing that municipal leaders have “a leading role in making a lasting impact in the fight against anti-Semitism,” Frankfurt am Main and CAM initiated a dialogue between mayors from countries around the world in an effort to provide them with the tools needed to combat hate.
Between panel discussions on related topics that included prevention, legislation, healing and cross-communal relations, Klein was asked to share about how Livingston became one of the first municipalities in the United States to pass a resolution against the Anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in 2016.
“At nearly 50% Jewish, Livingston is one of the most Jewish municipalities in the country,” said Klein. “We have Jews of every stripe, including Secular, Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox as well as a Chabat presence. Livingston has a long history of fighting bigotry, and my own congregation of Temple B’nai Abraham takes great pride in the fact that our Rabbi Joachim Prinz spoke in between John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington in 1963.
“As mayor, I understand that while municipal government has to do the everyday things like fixing potholes, keeping the water running and ensuring public safety, it is also crucial for the governing body to make larger statements about the world we live in. Such statements must reflect the moral tenor of the township, call out injustice and help lead the way forward to a better place for all of us.”
When a family friend suggested that Livingston consider an anti-BDS resolution in 2016, Klein championed the idea, and all five council members voted unanimously in favor of it later that year.
The resolution—which specifically acknowledges that the “global BDS movement targets Israel, and only Israel, while ignoring the role of despotic regimes” and that "some BDS movement supporters and leaders have trafficked in unacceptable anti-Semitic rhetoric, including the comparison of Israeli policy to that of Nazi Germany”—declares that the Township of Livingston “condemns all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from and sanction its government and people.”
“Up until my time on our town council, we had seen many compelling issues come before us; but to this day, I have never seen such an emotional eruption of support as when we passed our anti-BDS resolution,” said Klein. “People called and Emailed for days afterwards expressing their gratitude, including many people we had never heard from otherwise. Passing the resolution was clearly an important and necessary action.
“With the changing long-term demographics in America, those who are to be formerly in the majority feel threatened. They are lashing out, and wherever Jews live, we unfortunately become innocent targets of such blind hate. It is crucial that we must all resolve to identify and stand against anti-Semitism in whatever form it may take, and we must never relent.”
Prior to turning the discussion over to a panel focusing on legislation, security and law enforcement, moderator Nurit Ben thanked the Township of Livingston for its “pioneering role and municipal efforts to actually push back against the BDS movement.”
Klein’s segment can be heard at about two hours into the program, which can be viewed in its entirety below. To read more about the speakers or view the agenda for the Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism, CLICK HERE.
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