The recent Teaneck Town Council meeting saw the adoption of a “Peace and Unity” resolution amidst an emotionally-charged exchange of viewpoints from residents over the Israel-Hamas war and its impact on the Teaneck community. The move follows an October council resolution condemning Hamas for the recent terrorist attacks in Israel.
While the stated goal of the unity ordinance was to foster a greater sense of community and peace in Teaneck, residents and Council members expressed varied viewpoints on the nature, content, and timing of the resolution.
Resident Emma Harowitz expressed gratitude to the council for their clear moral stance, commending them for their earlier resolution condemning the intentional killing of innocents. Another resident, Elish Shatsky, thanked the council for the October 17th resolution and emphasized that denouncing a terrorist organization did not negate the pain of others.
In contrast, Yesen El Carani criticized the council for their perceived favoritism towards the Jewish community, accusing them of neglecting the suffering of Muslims. He felt the council’s resolution lacked mention of Muslim casualties, suggesting a discriminatory undertone. He questioned what the “threshold” of Muslim civilian deaths would be for them to be acknowledged by the council. El Carani concluded by urging the council to abstain from involvement in international geopolitics, believing it brought nothing beneficial.
Jesse Leon expressed skepticism about the sincerity of the unity resolution, stating that Jewish community members were advised not to attend the council meeting due to fears of potential unrest.
Cheryl Hall, a lifelong Teaneck resident, called for interfaith dialogue and unity in the face of adversity. She expressed her disappointment with the divisive nature of social media and hoped that Teaneck could serve as a model of communal harmony for the nation.
Ron Schwarz commended the council for their effort in drafting the resolution. He praised two high school students, a Jewish student and a Muslim student, for organizing an interfaith dialogue event. Schwarz recognized the importance of continuing such dialogues and acknowledged the township manager, Dean Kazinski, for ensuring security at the dialogue event and advocating for continued interfaith discussions.
A resident of almost 17 years shared her feelings of insecurity and recounted instances of Islamophobia she and her family had faced. She expressed concern over the divide in the community, noting that despite the many shared experiences between the Muslim and Jewish communities in Teaneck, there remained significant tensions and misunderstandings.
Another resident expressed concerns about the council’s practice of passing resolutions. He felt that these resolutions often led to more harm than goodwill, citing the absence of resolutions mourning civilian deaths in conflicts such as Syria or Ukraine. He urged the council to focus on municipal responsibilities, like garbage collection and park maintenance, instead of international politics. He remarked, “don’t play in politics at all,” emphasizing that the council wasn’t affiliated with any political party and that their role was to represent the town.
After closing public comments, the council members shared their own views and calls for unity. Hillary Goldberg voiced concerns over anti-Semitism. Danielle Gee highlighted the importance of understanding different perspectives and promoting peace, while Mayor Michael Pagan echoed these sentiments.