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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Filled to near capacity, the main auditorium of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades hosted a panel of local, regional and state leaders and officials for its “Hate Has No Place” forum. An impressive array of co-sponsor organizations lined the perimeter of the room with display tables bearing literature and promotional materials. There were close to 30 sponsor groups, suggesting the spectrum and magnitude of mutual concern about the insidious threat of hate. The forum and panelists represented both grassroots leadership and official governmental participants.

The panel moderator, Evan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, described the role of the internet in hate as being in direct contrast with the old KKK style of operation, when members hid their faces under hoods. “There is no hiding,” he said. “The ‘lone wolfs’ are often activated (right) online,” as hate groups actively recruit members in the public forum of the world wide web.

The mayor of Teaneck, Mohammed Hameeduddin, declared, “It is time to demand of Facebook that it behaves in a manner that benefits America, not Mark Zuckerberg.” His statement was met with applause and a standing ovation. The mayor continued, “Citizens need to pressure the legislature to act. There needs to be a mass effort to shut down Facebook hate.” He even suggested that Facebook users themselves “employ Facebook’s (own) platform to organize a boycott,” eliciting more applause.

Panelist Jared Maples, director, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, issued yet another powerful and no-holds-barred statement. He said that his office now officially categorizes internet hatemongers as “domestic terrorists.” This statement prompted an immediate and positive crowd reaction, as Maples added, “…the New Jersey office of Homeland Security is the first law enforcement group to issue this stance as an official policy statement.” He justified this action, stating, “They use the same methods as ISIS and Al Qaeda, using the internet to recruit empathizers.” This policy now paves the way for law enforcement agencies to actively take the sites down, because they incite hate. He concluded by noting, “Education is the enemy of the ignorant,” and emphasized the importance of “creating programs to help people bridge the gap between law enforcement and various cultures.”

Panelist Pastor Gil Montrose is the director and founder, Faith-Based and Clergy Initiatives, Brooklyn Borough President’s Office. Pastor Montrose’s initiative is to “cross over and learn about ‘them.’ Don’t just say you have a black friend. Get together and talk to each other.”

Serving on the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, Inc. in Brooklyn, Montrose has partnered with other clergy to create “The God Squad,” Center for Excellence for Faith Based Partnerships to End Youth Violence. The council has published a handbook entitled “Gun Violence Prevention Toolkit for Clergy: Best Practices for Faith Leaders.” He spoke of the importance of “The Golden Rule and respecting others, in how to talk to children about hate.” He emphasized the essential partnership between clergy, law enforcement and the community in making neighborhoods a safe place for everyone.

Lisa Harris Glass is the chief planning officer for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. She emphasized the importance of “build[ing] bridges. Thank your elected members of Congress who stand with the Jewish community. Let them know via emails, calls, and even visit them in person.”

Glass described internet hate as “the perfect storm of evil unleashed.”

One resource provided at the forum was a comprehensive list entitled “Action Items,” which mentioned, among others:

“Pledge to show up” (Thoughts and prayers are not enough.)

“Report: If you see something, say something.” The ADL has a Cyber Safety Action Guide, and you can report incidents of anti-Semitism on the ADL website. You can also report suspicious activity by calling 1-866-SAFE-NJ or emailing [email protected] Download the SAFE-NJ mobile app and learn about indicators and examples of suspicious activity at www.njohsp.gov/njsars

“Educate and accept”

“Learn, collaborate and participate”

“Communicate”: Write letters, engage with young people (and all people) about the consequences of hate, introduce young people and educators to the ADL’s educational programs.

“Start something new”: Grass roots organizations do make a difference.

By Ellie Wolf