Montclair councilors vow to speak up against bigotry
In the wake of the attempted firebombing of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, the Montclair Township Council took a pledge last week to stand up for others when friends, relatives, colleagues or others are expressing bigotry.
In introducing a proclamation at the Feb. 21 meeting, Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams said: “Montclair is a community rich in its diversity, something we embrace as an asset. It’s one of the core qualities which drew many of us to call this place home.”
She added that “preserving diversity” was one of the reasons she had been drawn to public service in the township and that she valued the way various groups stand up for one another.
“I felt that surge of support when my synagogue in neighboring Bloomfield was the site of an attempted firebombing with a Molotov cocktail a few weeks ago,” Price Abrams said.
“It was so emotionally powerful that over 1,000 community members and leaders of every level of government and community institutions showed up for us in an evening of great solidarity.
“And law enforcement was coordinated at all levels to quickly identify a suspect. I want to say publicly, thank you for all of that support.”
She said that the Stand Up for the Other Pledge was a means of moving away from bias and mistrust.
Dr. M. Ali Chaudry, president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, co-founder of The New Jersey Interfaith Coalition and author of the pledge, joined Price Abrams in leading the council and residents at the meeting in taking the pledge.
“He crafted the Stand Up for the Other Pledge to help us keep faith with our values when in the safe spaces of being with our own,” Price Abrams said of Chaudry. “Regardless of the context, the commitment of the pledge is that we’ll be an upstander even when uncomfortable, be a conscience to call out when someone draws upon stereotypes or group blame.”
The pledge says:
“While interacting with members of my own faith or race, age or ability, ethnicity or national origin, sexual orientation 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 speak up to challenge bigotry in any form.”
After the council and people in the crowd took the pledge, Chaudry said: “I'm
really honored to be a part of it, and be here with you tonight in solidarity with the Jewish community. When I heard the news about the Bloomfield synagogue, I immediately wrote to my colleagues and said we need to stand up. We need to be there.
“And that is why I'm really, really honored that you have taken the time to make a public statement that this community will not accept bigotry in any form. Thank you very much.”
Since Chaudry wrote the pledge in 2015, it has been taken by members of the New Jersey Senate and by members of local government in at least 20 municipalities and counties.
Anyone who would like to sign the pledge can find it at the website of the NJ InterFaith Coalition (njifc.org), a non-partisan network of houses of worship, organizations and individuals.
Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Sean Spiller read a proclamation recognizing February as Black History Month. It said in part: “We encourage everyone to reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of Black Americans. Let us resolve to continue our march toward the day when every person enjoys the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and their contributions are recognized.”