Jewish fifth graders sat and chatted with Muslim, Sikh, African-American and Asian-American students in the same age group as they worked collaboratively to make the world a little brighter. As a result, Bergen County got a little more culturally unified after 200 students spent their MLK day at Saddle Brook’s VFW Post, working together on a variety of service-minded projects to benefit the needy in Bergen County. Freeholder Tracy Silna Zur was the host for this second annual day of service in Saddle Brook, welcoming middle schoolers from multiple faiths and cultural backgrounds to celebrate Martin Luther King’s legacy of community service.
“We are living in a time right now that there is so much fanning of that hatred, fears of what’s different about each other. And really what we need are more opportunities to bring our kids together, [and] adults together, to come to the understanding that our diversity is our strength,” Silna Zur told The Jewish Link.
“Pizza is a great uniter,” she quipped, noting that kosher cheese pizza was served to all the participants. Silna Zur also acknowledged that the day would not have been possible without supply donations from the Inserra ShopRites, Wal-Mart, and Learning Express of Ridgewood.
Student representatives from the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, the Sikh Gurdwara community in Bergen County, Yeshivat He’Atid, the Gerrard Berman Day School, the Hindu community Mahwah, Teaneck’s Muslim community and many others, includings students from public schools, were divided into diverse groups to make toiletry packets for the Bergen County Homeless Shelter, cat toys for the Bergen County Animal Shelter, mosaics for several benches for a women’s shelter and a community arboretum, and polar fleece blankets for residents at the long-term-care center at Newbridge Medical Center (formerly Bergen Regional). Other groups wrote letters to send to servicemen and women in the military overseas, thanking them for their service; another prepared children’s activity packets for the children’s hospital in Hackensack. Each half hour, students circulated to a new station, round-robin style. At one station, they paused for a group discussion, where students engaged in guided roundtable conversation about what they have in common with one another, discussing favorite foods and how their families celebrate holidays.
At the completion of the event, each student attending received a certificate of community service. Also attending the event to show their support were Robert White, mayor of Saddle Brook; Mohammed Hameeduddin, mayor of Teaneck; Ora Kornbluth, a Bergenfield councilwoman; and Howard Weinberg, community partnership coordinator for Saddle Brook. Bergen County prosecutor and NJ Attorney General nominee Gurbir Grewal also attended. The event was organized by Silna Zur’s non profit organization, “We the People.”
By Elizabeth Kratz