PLAINFIELD, NJ - Building on momentum set in motion by students at Rutgers University last month, members of the State Senate and State Assembly have taken the “Stand Up for the Other” pledge to not be indifferent to expressions of bigotry.
The Pledge, sponsored by the New Jersey Interfaith Coalition, was modified for 2016 to include gender bias and reads: “While interacting with members of my own faith, ethnic or gender community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and challenge bigotry in any form.”
The New Jersey Interfaith Coalition developed the “Stand Up for the Other” pledge in response to efforts of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding to bring faith groups together during its Season of Twinning. Its mission is to foster a climate of positive mutual acceptance and appreciation for others regardless of differences in faith, race, or sexual orientation.
The second annual “Stand Up for the Other” rally was convened at the Rutgers University New Brunswick campus on Nov. 1 by a variety of faith groups and student-run organizations, and which featured New Jersey Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino as keynote speaker.
State Senators Raymond Lesniak and Linda Greenstein who took part in the two November Stand Up rallies, and Senator Kip Bateman brought the movement to the attention of their fellow legislators.
“Stand Up for the Other brings us together as One New Jersey and as One America. Our diversity is what defines us as Americans and is part of our strength as citizens of New Jersey, which is the most diverse state in the country. We need to stand up for what is right and be willing to stand with others who are doing the right thing,” Lesniak said.
“Now more than ever, we must stand together against hate and bigotry. As elected officials, we should lead the effort. I was pleased to take this pledge with my colleagues who, in one voice, committed to challenging bigotry in any form," Greenstein added. "I urge people of good will to join this effort and to commit in the strongest terms possible to the principles of tolerance and mutual respect and understanding.”
“The Rutgers event gave me great hope for the future to see our young people come together to take a proactive stance against bigotry and discrimination. And I’m proud to do the same, standing with my colleagues today,” Bateman added.
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16), who took the pledge in January this year during a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial ceremony, worked closely with organizers to bring the idea to the State Assembly. "Today is an historical day, the entire NJ legislature has stood up together to say that we will speak up to challenge bigotry in all its forms," Zwicker said. "As the author of an anti-bigotry resolution that passed the Assembly unanimously this summer, I am proud to stand with all of my colleagues in both houses and both parties in support of respect and equality for all New Jersey residents."
Assemblyman Gary Schaer, the only Orthodox Jewish member of the State legislature, added, “It is up to every individual to challenge bigotry and help create a more inclusive society. By endorsing the Pledge to Stand up for the Other, we are sending a clear message: We are stronger as a community because of our differences, not despite of them.”
Dr. Ali Chaudry, creator of the Pledge to Stand Up for the Other, Co-Founder of the NJ Interfaith Coalition and the NJ Muslim Jewish Solidarity Committee, and president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, said, “I am deeply grateful to all New Jersey State Senators and Assembly members for taking the Pledge to Stand Up for the Other. They have set a great example of how we can all come together to wipe out bigotry and hatred from our society.”
Jacob Toporek, executive director, NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, added, “Having all 120 members of the NJ Legislature stand with us and take a personal pledge to ‘stand up for the other’ is a significant, meaningful, inspirational and, certainly, a bold message to all of our citizens that mutual respect and tolerance are the most preferred values. We should remain vigilant and take every opportunity to speak out against hatred.”
Walter Ruby, Muslim-Jewish Programs Director for FFEU, highlighted the urgency following a divisive election season and was hopeful for next steps, “FFEU is delighted for the New Jersey legislature’s commitment to modeling the good citizenship we wish to see by all by taking the Pledge.”