Two things happened in Rockland last week that illustrate the past we are working to leave behind and the future we are embracing.
The first was an unprovoked, inexcusable attack on two separate homes in New City where rabbis live. Someone put high-powered firecrackers outside these homes while the residents were inside. Luckily no one was hurt. But that doesn’t mean there was no damage done.
The families, longtime residents of New City, felt threatened – made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in their own homes. That’s a blow that will take a long time to heal.
Inexcusable and unacceptable. We have every confidence that the Clarkstown police will bring the perpetrators of this hate crime to justice
There is no place for hate, intolerance and intimidation in our community.
Within hours after word of this crime started to spread, something else started to happen — something that really shows what Rockland is all about.
People from all walks of life began denouncing this hate crime. With less than 24 hours’ notice in the middle of the August vacation season, our Commissioner of Human Rights Dr. Penny Jennings organized a rally to show that the people of Rockland state united against hate and bigotry.
Representatives from many part of Rockland’s diverse communities attended, Christian, Jew, Muslim, elected officials and others stood together on a steamy hot day to show that a united Rockland is no match for the bigotry of a few.
We also had a guest speaker who reached out to Rockland and asked to participate: The Anti-Defamation League.
This influential organization that has long been a leader in combatting anti-Semitism and hate of all types directed at any and all. We are honored that they want to form a closer relationship with our administration and work together with us going forward to fight hate.
The ADL also announced that it is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
We were pleased that the community stood together so quickly and so strongly in the face of hate.
But we know that rallies alone won’t soothe all the tensions in our community.
That is why Dr. Jennings is working hard to reinvigorate the Interfaith Council and work with the Human Rights Commission to create bridges between all the people who form Rockland’s diverse population.
That important work will deepen relationships based on trust, tolerance and shared goals. We welcome other groups to work with us to achieve this goal.
It takes mutual respect and understanding among ethnic, cultural and religious groups to reduce conflicts. That is why we are creating and maintaining strategic alliances with so many local groups.
This is the Rockland of the future and we are working hard to reach that goal.
There are other positive signs that relations are improving between the various groups that call Rockland home.
Ramapo and the East Ramapo schools are a focal point in the tension between some residents. Just this week, the state Department of Education named a new monitor to oversee the school board, which has been a great source of controversy.
I’ve called for a monitor for the East Ramapo schools for years. Such a person is needed to ensure that dialogue is free from and hate and remains focused on issues.
It’s a small step, but we are confident that we are working toward a Rockland where everyone feels they have a voice.