MONTCLAIR, NJ - On January 6, several community leaders and clergy gathered to discuss the incidents that occurred during a 4th Ward community meeting on December 30.

The sentiments expressed at the meeting came less than a week after six people were senselessly shot inside a Jewish deli in Jersey City, and the day after a mentally ill man raided a rabbi’s residence in Monsey, New York senselessly stabbing five Orthodox Jews with a machete during a Hanukkah celebration.

James Harris, who was serving as the Education Chair of the NAACP and also the President of the New Jersey Association of Black Educators (NJABE), has since apologized for his remarks made at the December 30th community meeting. Though the meeting was hosted by Councilor Renee Baskerville. 

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During the meeting, Harris was rebuked by Rabbi David Greenstein after making remarks about Hasidic Jews

Mayor Robert Jackson then issued a statement stating that he would arrange a meeting with community leaders and clergy. The anticipation prior to that closed session joint meeting on January 6, was that Montclair leaders would gather to repair relationships.

On January 10, the leaders and clergy issued a joint statement saying, "At this meeting we came together in a spirit of generosity, respect and deep listening. Through honesty, we listened to one another's concerns, working to grow from one another's comments. We are confident that this effort was a valuable step in expanding our relationships with each other and our communities."

They added that they feel the need to have further discussions to repair relationships. 

"We affirm the necessity, as we go forward, that we all reach for an honorable discourse that equally values and underscores the humanity of all people. This must be the order of the day. Hate speech is the antithesis of honorable discourse and must be avoided and rejected. This includes anti-semitism and racism, but also sexism, homophobia, and other kinds of discrimination. Our civic leaders have a duty to themselves and to the community they serve to model such honorable discourse and to uphold it when calling on our citizenry to responsible engagement," they added.

 

The entire press release is below:



We, the undersigned, are community leaders and clergy serving the people of Montclair, including people of all racial, ethnic and religious identities, sexual orientations and political affiliations.

We came together on January 6, 2020, at the invitation of Mayor Robert Jackson in the aftermath of the meeting of Montclair's 4th Ward on December 30, 2019. That meeting raised many concerns in our community, highlighting the challenges facing us all during these times of anxiety, confusion and mistrust. By meeting together, our goal was to learn from one another and begin to chart a path forward.

At this meeting we came together in a spirit of generosity, respect and deep listening. Through honesty, we listened to one another's concerns, working to grow from one another's comments. We are confident that this effort was a valuable step in expanding our relationships with each other and our communities.

We affirm the necessity, as we go forward, that we all reach for an honorable discourse that equally values and underscores the humanity of all people. This must be the order of the day. Hate speech is the antithesis of honorable discourse and must be avoided and rejected. This includes anti-semitism and racism, but also sexism, homophobia, and other kinds of discrimination. Our civic leaders have a duty to themselves and to the community they serve to model such honorable discourse and to uphold it when calling on our citizenry to responsible engagement.

We have joined to commit ourselves to work together to combat all forms of hatred in our community. We will advocate for educational and social programs that create bridges and not walls between people. We will advocate for the weak, the poor and the marginalized in this town. Social advantage must not be allowed to become an instrument for inequality or a source of festering resentment. It must be distributed and available to all. To that end we will fight to move the leadership in Montclair to develop a plan for our community that preserves the values of diversity and openness that have made Montclair special. This means that the issues of affordable housing, effective education, and adequate services, among other issues, will become a priority in planning and not a secondary, grudging consideration.

We invite all people of good will to join in this struggle. We must learn from experience and understand that we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to save Montclair.

Signed:
Mr. Kevin Dawud Amin, Imam, Masjid Al-Wadud
Rev. Clenard Childress, Jr., New Calvary Baptist Church
Cantor Kenneth Feibush, Temple Beth Sholom of West Essex
Cantor Meredith Greenberg, Temple Ner Tamid
Rabbi David Greenstein Congregation Shomrei Emunah
Rabbi Laurence Groffman, Temple Beth Sholom of West Essex
Rev. Leslie Houseworth-Fields, St. Mark’s UMC

Rabbi Marc Katz, Temple Ner Tamid
Mr. Albert Pelham, NAACP
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, Bnai Keshet
Rabbi Ariann Weitzman, Bnai Keshet
Rev. Anita Wright, Trinity Presbyterian Church