Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kiryas Yoel left out

Times Herald-Record

When Orange County leaders held a summit on human rights May 31, they deliberately kept the county's most obvious cultural conflict from even coming up during a day-long discussion about diversity and discrimination.
As a result, an eight-page conference summary just released by the county Human Rights Commission fails to mention that the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel and its neighbors have been fighting for almost two years over the village's potential expansion and its plans for a 13-mile water pipeline.
Not a word about the resulting accusations and denials of anti-Semitism or anti-Hasidic bigotry, nor about the tangle of development and ballot-box issues that often put Kiryas Joel and its critics at loggerheads. I
nstead, the summit report blandly summarized a session on "The Diverse Communities of Orange County" by saying: "It was evident that there are many in our county who are interested in hearing about each other's cultures, suggesting that other venues for this cultural exchange might be possible." Michael Amo, the county lawmaker who represents Kiryas Joel, unloaded last week when the report was presented to a legislative committee. "We have, obviously, major issues regarding the relationship" between Kiryas Joel and neighboring towns, he said. "And I was surprised to see that no one was on the advisory committee from Kiryas Joel, nor was any of the panelists."
Christine Sadowski, a vice-chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission, replied: "We very intentionally, actually, did not include them on the panel for the fear that it would become the only issue discussed. And the thought was that in this very first summit, to try to have the discussion and range of issues to be as broad as possible."
She later added that summit planners worried that discussing Kiryas Joel would stir up election-year politics.
Sadowski also said that County Executive Edward Diana's office eventually invited Ari Felberman, Kiryas Joel's government relations coordinator, to serve on a panel, but that he declined because the summit was being held the day before a Kiryas Joel election.
Jeffrey Berkman, a county legislator from Middletown, joined Amo in criticizing the conference report, saying it ignored not only Kiryas Joel but the larger issue of "religious intolerance."..
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 2:08 PM

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