The Monster At the End of This Book

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a public meeting of the Teaneck Board of Education.   The topic was a consolidated busing plan adopted by the Board for non-public school students, which would place dozens of children – -as much as 70 – – at various corners throughout the township for mass-collection and distribution in the early morning and early evening.  The plan also eliminates “courtesy” busing for public school students in grades 1 – 4.    If you think the simmering hostility and brute tension displayed at the meeting was about busing, think again.   The dispute was stayed for at least one year in the face of a generous, if indelicately handled, donation by a local bank to defray the cost of the non-public busing.  Courtesy busing remains off the table but, as public school parents are rightfully concerned about the impact of choosing busing cuts over education cuts, there does not seem to be sufficient outcry or will to do anything about it.   It was a glimmer of light that, at the end of the meeting, many on both sides agreed to work together to try to raise funds to restore Courtesy busing.

The Day After finds good people on both sides of the debate licking their wounds.  Many felt that positions were staked – – and loudly broadcast – – not along financial or safety concerns but out of racial and economic warfare.   To be sure, the loudest and angriest speakers crossed red lines of acceptable civil dialogue.  Notably, the local gadfly who proclaimed that “I don’t want to live near you [the Jews] and [the Jews] don’t want to live near me.”  She’s right. I don’t want to live near her, but not because she is African-American.  I don’t want to live near her because she is a racist who is full of hate.  She is almost as dangerous as a 12 year old walking alone two miles in the dark to an overcrowded bus stop, carefully dodging buses, minivans, and sexual predators.  

But, contrary to many, I did not feel that her voice was the majority.  Citizens on both sides of the spectrum spoke respectfully, from the heart, and emotionally.  I was encouraged by the open and honest debate, and sympathized with the well-reasoned arguments presented in favor and against the Board’s action. 

The only thing that surprised me last night was that anyone was surprised by the events of last night.

Teaneck has, for decades, been home to, among other groups, a notable mix of African Americans and Orthodox Jews.  For the most part, the groups have lived in harmony and peace.  Indeed, Teaneck was among the first municipalities to embrace integration. But don’t fool yourselves.  Teaneck lived through race riots in April of 1990.  And, like many other diverse communities, peaceful coexistence sometimes masks racial and religious tension.   Non-Jews perceive (inaccurately) their Jewish Neighbors as living in big houses, with big families and high-paying jobs, but who refuse to eat in their restaurants, attend their public schools, or co-mingle in their social groups.   Worse, non-Jews often resent the fact that their Jewish neighbors seem to be trying to impose their will on the entire community and that evokes resistance that is grounded in self-pride and  self defense. 

On the other hand, the Orthodox Jewish Community contributes millions of dollars to the public school system without withdrawing any material benefit other than the free busing.  Yes, that’s by choice, but you can see their point.

I am not optimistic that the racial divide can be gapped.  It has existed, in one form or another, for centuries.   It makes me sad because it is so unnecessary and hurtful.  It tears apart good communities and good people – – many of whom I met last night.  I genuinely believe that most of Teaneck wants to embrace their neighbors regardless of race or religion.  I believe that most of the people who live in this town are not racists and would fight to the death against injustice and discrimination.   You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

But, this is not about racism or diversity or hatred.  It’s just about busing.

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About aweisbrot

Ari is a prominent litigator in New York and New Jersey. He has been featured on CBS Radio’s Wall Street Journal Report, quoted in legal and non-legal periodicals, and has been recognized as a “SuperLawyer” in New Jersey and a "Top Ten Lawyer to Watch" in New York. Mr. Weisbrot is a true “client’s lawyer,” representing a diverse range of clients from among the largest retailers in the United States to smaller local businesses to religious and charitable organizations. Ari was appointed by Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey to a three-year term of service on the Committee on Character. The Committee determines the fitness to practice law of each candidate for admission to the Bar of the State. Mr. Weisbrot also continues to serve on the District Ethics Committee (IIB - Bergen County), which operates under the auspices of the New Jersey State Office of Attorney Ethics. Mr. Weisbrot has been awarded an 'AV' rating for his professionalism and the quality of his legal work from Martindale-Hubbell, the premier directory of legal professionals, and has been selected by his peers as a Super Lawyer. In addition, Mr. Weisbrot has written several articles on commercial litigation, which have been published in the New Jersey Law Journal and the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. A Former New York City prosecutor, Mr. Weisbrot is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law, where he was a member of the Urban Law Journal and a featured columnist in the Law School newspaper
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13 Responses to The Monster At the End of This Book

  1. Michael Rogovin says:

    You mean integration,not segregation. Better fix that…

  2. Kevin says:

    I attended the meeting yesterday to implore the Teaneck Board of Education to reject the divisive grant of $85,000 from Cross River Bank to restore door to door busing for the non-public schools. In Teaneck, the non public schools are mainly the Jewish Yeshivas. Presently the town allocate $1,719,000 to transport to school the non public school children from kindergarten to senior year of High School. An increase of $159,400 from the previous year. The town only allows busing for public school children in kindergarten at a cost of $463,840, a decrease of $431,466 from the previous year. The town councilmen Yitz Stern and Ellie Katz, who violated their oath to represent all of the citizens of Teaneck solicited a $85,000 grant from Cross River which would only benefit the non public schools. The supporters of the grant has threaten the Board of Election with a lawsuit unless they agree to these divisive conditions. My main concern is by accepting this grant, what is this teaching the 4,000 public school children? Does it lessen �their self esteem as they watch the non public school children getting picked up literally at their door �while they have to walk miles to school? What does it do the 2,000 non-public school children? Does it give them a false sense of entitlement? In 1954, Brown vs Board of Education rejected the concept of “Separate but Equal”. Has the town of Teaneck with it�s legendary record of inclusiveness �turned it back on that ruling? That money should be put in a general fund which can be match by other business in town. Once the amount of that fund equal to the amount that will restore busing to both the public and non public school, only then should the monies be release. I know it was a difficult decision to make yesterday however it must be rescinded so that all of the children of Teaneck can have equal protection under the law . Thank you

    • aweisbrot says:

      appreciate your comments – – even though they have absolutely nothing at all to do with my blog posting! For example, and I am not making this argument, but I am curious how you respond to the fact that “Yeshiva” families you mention are literally funding 40% of your public school budget – – without getting a single benefit from it. You are benefiting from their millions of dollars. They aren’t. If you say that they made that choice by themselves, I cannot argue with you. You are right. But, so what? The Teaneck public school system is not in such great shape. If 1500 new students were added, it would likely push the public education in Teaneck to the worst in NJ, maybe in the nation. So you and your children actually benefit from the fact that these families pay but do not attend. You get MUCH better teacher-student ratio. Much more services, and equipment, etc. You benefit – – they don’t. The fact that they CHOOSE not to benefit does not change this fact. All they want in exchange for this money is $85,000 to make sure that their children are not in danger. Then, they went out of got that money covered by a grant. Even if they did not, ALL the funding – – for ALL busing – – is a tiny fraction of the budget and – – guess what — in recent weeks the BOE got ten times the money necessary to restore ALL busing (and many other services).
      All of this is besides the point. I am not making or advocating any of these arguments. My only point is that it is NOT a racial or religious argument on EITHER side. It is an argument about busing (And maybe safety). Each side may be right and each side may be wrong, but let’s remember what we are debating!! By the way, if councilman Katz gets a stop sign on YOUR block, is he violating his oath? That stop sign will benefit you MUCH more than it will benefit me. Do you think that EVERYTHING a council member does is supposed to benefit EVERY citizen? That is absurd. If the counsel builds a new basketball court, does that benefit all the residents who don’t play basketball? That’s not how real life works. EXCEPT, ironically, in this case. By restoring the busing, EVERY citizen benefits. Your taxes wont go up to pay for crossing guards and police protection. You wont have to pay more money to install sidewalks for the children, or to open schools early to accommodate the waiting students in the snow. You wont have to pay to defend lawsuits when a child is hurt or a passing car gets into an accident. You wont have to sit in traffic for 45 minutes on many blocks, while 75 kids are loaded onto 5 buses. You wont have to see trash accumulating in the “hub” spots. The list goes on and on. Did I mention the noise you wont hear? Did i mention the sexual predators that wont congregate on the HUB locations? All of these things benefit YOU and every other citizen of Teaneck. So how can you say that Katz and Stern acted only in the interest of SOME citizens (which, as mentioned, is extremely common). Anyway, keep focused. I appreciate your comment – – but this is a debate about safety and busing.

  3. Kevin says:

    I wrote two comments, perhaps the first one didn’t appear. Children with disabilities, many which are Orthodox uses the related services provided by the Special Education Budget of Teaneck. These costs amount to 10% of the school budget. Many home owners in Teaneck do not have children, however they still pay their taxes to the school district. On Saturdays, when the police department are directing traffic outside the various temples, I do not complain that my tax dollars are paying for a officer who is not serving and protecting me. When the Orthodox community dedicate a new temple, I do not complain that the town is losing a tax ratable property.
    The price of living in a community is that we all have to pay taxes for items which we may not use. That being said, the issue of a bank giving monies to a school district and specifying how that money may be used only for one group of people is wrong.
    Your analogy of a councilman using his influence to get a stop sign or a soccer field built is irrelevant because in those cases, the public official is using influence to get something which may be used by anyone in the community, if they so choses. A correct analogy to using the soccer field analogy would be if a public official got a soccer field built and had it fenced off for only a select few of his friends.
    You mentioned that the restoration of the money would save the town from lawsuits, however the town was threaten with a lawsuit unless they capitulated to the demands of the “Safe Teaneck” people.
    I did not mention that this was a racial or religious issue however it is ironic that last year the three Orthodox members of the town council along with the only Muslim member voted to reduce the Board of Education budget by 6 million dollars. This caused the reduction of many classes in the school district. My son’s Spanish class was taught by his Korean born teacher who weren’t fluent in Spanish. So naturally, we are amused that our governor deemed that we should have a Hebrew Charter School while cutting money for other language programs. Speech program was consolidated and children went six months without a credible program. Bus monitors were eliminated which create dangerous situations on the buses.

    Naturally this is your blog and you are free to restrict it to whomever you like to. I’m just giving you my opinion in a open and honest dialect upon the present situation. Thank you.

    • aweisbrot says:

      I do not edit or censor comments. I did not see your earlier post. I approved it now. Rather than go back and forth, I will just say one thing: We have caught the BOE in two red-handed, provable lies. the first, was in writing, when they said the police had reviewed and approved the bus stops. The police denied it and then the board had to backtrack – – but they put the lie in writing. The second lie was about being sued. They said it last night – – but its a lie. They are distorting what I said publicly. Just another lie. Dont believe everything you hear!!

      Finally, I remind you – – virtualy every sentence you write contains racial or religious overtones – – every sentence. This is NOT a racial issue, no matter how much you try to turn it into one/

    • tgs0312 says:

      Perhaps I can teach you something a learnt at a young age. Don’t make a statement unless you are absolutely positive about the facts. It is so sweet that you don’t mind when the police are out on Saturdays protecting and directing traffic at the various synagogues. There is no need for you to mind since they are all privately paid for by each individual institution that they are based at.

      • Kevin says:

        Thank you, tgs0312, I stand to be corrected. However the gist of my statement is we all pay taxes for the common good. Home owners without children pay taxes also. Should they be released of their obligation because they are not benefiting from using the school system or is the education of children a community responsible? Should I not pay taxes for a fire department because my house has not caught on fire? That being said this was an extremely divisive issue when public official seek money for their own private interest instead of the entire community good. the money need to be return. It’s tainted.

  4. Kevin says:

    Excuse me, I am not a lawyer nor am I a bigot but also I’m not naive enough not to realize that there is an 800 pound elephant in a room. Are any of the statements I made are false or lies? You stated that my comments have racial and religious overtones, sir take a look at your original blog. Your statement contains racial and religious overtones as well as false stereotypes. You stated that the Orthodox community do not withdraw any material benefit from the school district. I pointed out that Orthodox disabled children receives help from the school system. I also pointed out that the town council pulled 6 million dollars from the school budget which was devastating to the education of the children. Everyone pays taxes so its not contributing. I’m just pointing out that everyone in a community makes sacrifices for the good of the community. That being said when public officials uses their influence with private institutions to benefit one group over another than that is wrong. The money is improper and should be return. ———- I made a syntax error in the last sentence of my original comment, I should had written “dialogue” instead “dialect”. Thank you.

  5. H.S. says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Nothing prevents you from sending your child to one of the many religious and secular private schools within 20 miles of Teaneck. Many of them offer academic or needs based scholarships as well. Have you looked into the various private school options?


    • Kevin says:

      Hi H.S.,
      The decision to send our child to public school was a conscious one made by my wife and I. It was not because of financial consideration but it is interesting that you would think that would be the reason. My son will enter the 5th grade next year so the busing issue doesn’t affect me per se. However the fact that town councilmen will use their influence to serve one group at the cost of another is an injustice which I oppose. .

  6. H.S. says:

    Hi Kevin,

    If financial considerations are not a driver, I am curious as to why you send your kids to Teaneck’s public schools. By most accounts (and data) they seem to be doing a substandard job in educating Teaneck’s youth. Are you satisfied with the education your child is receiving?



  7. Kevin says:

    Hi H.S.
    As I was advised earlier, “Dont believe everything you hear” [sic]. My next door neighbor son is a product of the Teaneck school system and is doing quite well at Cornel. His buddy is presently attending Harvard. If you are basing your question on output data, just consider that Teaneck schools accepts all students, student with learning disabilities as well recent students with english as their secondary language. So perhaps test scores are not the full indicative of the learning experience? Are you doing a disservice to your children by sending them to a homogeneous learning environment? When they graduate, how will they adapt to a world which is becoming heterogenous at an exponential rate? It’s interesting that many of the parents of private school children who grew up in Teaneck attended the public schools. Is by having their children going to private school a way that the parents can affirm their own social mobility? Is this the best thing for their children in the 21st century? It’s sad that the Teaneck school system doesn’t display the same diversity that the town population is made of. Children learn more from children who are different than they are. That is a good thing.

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