Rockland County is a place of amazing diversity where people of all ethnicities, religions and walks of life live alongside each other, for the most part, in harmony.
That’s what makes it all the more disturbing that there has been an uptick in hate crimes aimed at particular groups.
In the past two weeks there have been two incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti in our county and one incident aimed at the LGBT community.
Unacceptable. Simply unacceptable.
I have condemned these acts as strongly as possible. When the criminals are caught they need to be held accountable – even if they are young people who don’t fully comprehend the impact of their actions.
It’s one thing to condemn acts of hate.
It’s another to take action – to build bridges between people, to reach out to our diverse communities, to make sure that everyone in Rockland County knows that they matter and they are valued.
That is exactly what I have done as County Executive and throughout my personal and professional life.
For years I volunteered as a coach, mentoring hundreds of kids of all backgrounds. We all know that the guidance and mentoring provided by a coach can impact a child for life. I’d like to think that I had that effect on the youngsters I coached.
That was a positive action.
As County Executive, I created the Interfaith Summit to improve communications and understanding among Rockland’s many diverse groups.
Another positive action.
Under my direction, county organized and held two public rallies to denounce two separate acts of hate – one aimed at the homes of two rabbis in New City and the other to speak out against a deadly shooting in Florida involving the LGBT community.
Leaders of legitimate Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League stood with me and even offered a reward to help bring the perpetrators of the anti-Semitic crimes to justice.
And just a couple of months ago when Jewish Community Centers throughout the nation were being threatened, I joined other local, state and federal officials at the JCC in West Nyack to show solidarity and promise that everything was being done to make sure the institution was safe.
I have made an effort as County Executive to engage with members of the many diverse groups in Rockland.
I was at the Pride Center in Nyack just a couple of weeks ago to dedicate their new headquarters. I happily attended the a Passover Seder with a Chabad family in Nyack.
I’ve been a guest many times at the Islamic Center of Rockland in Valley Cottage and celebrated occasions like Eid with these neighbors.
I was guest speaker at a recent scholarship dinner held by the United Negro College Fund, as well as a similar event with the Sons of Italy.
All actions that matter.
And as County Executive I have made sure that people have access to the services. I spoke at a Narcan training session designed for the Haitian community and I directed our county Department of Mental Health to hold a similar event for the Jewish community.
Finally, I fully support the efforts of our County Sheriff Lou Falco, in conjunction with all local police departments, to explore broader enforcement and investigative strategies designed to both prevent these crimes and prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent possible under the law.
My point here is that I have worked hard to bring our many communities together, to take a stand against hate and to send a strong message that everyone is welcome here in Rockland County.
Unfortunately, I have often had to go it alone. It’s not often that I bump into members of the Legislative majority as I join these diverse groups across the county.
None of the Legislative majority were at the rallies against hate. I didn’t see any of them at Konbit Neg Lakay when we were doing Narcan training with the Haitian community. We’ve had numerous events honoring Latino members of the community. No members of the Legislative majority there either.
Some of these legislators are very good at divisive theatrics during legislative meetings and sadly believe that is considered positive “action”.
And it’s a sad irony that a Legislator who accuses me of being divisive was a very vocal supporter of the despicable video “The Jew Rockland” that compared our diverse county to Nazi Germany. Talk about fanning the flames of hate.
And let’s not forget that I named a very strong, exceedingly well-qualified, well-educated woman who was eager to work to bring people together as Commissioner of Human Rights.
It was the members of the Legislative majority that refused to confirm her – the first time in recent history that a commissioner was not confirmed.
Their action cast a pall over that position. Who would want to risk taking a high profile job like that when a superbly qualified person was essentially fired for petty political reasons?
We’re still searching for a replacement even as we reinvigorate the Commission on Human Rights. This commission will address the issue of hate at its June 26 meeting.
In the meantime, I will continue to stand with ALL of our diverse communities and take action against hate.
After all, actions speak louder than words.