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Police, Religious Leaders Take on Bias Crimes

The first meeting of the Fair Lawn Interfaith Council was held Thursday, Feb. 16.

Representatives from 10 of Fair Lawn’s 24 houses of worship gathered Thursday inside for the .

The council, which seeks to foster an environment where the leaders of Fair Lawn’s religious institutions feel comfortable gathering to discuss safety and security matters, was formed through a joint effort by the and borough council in light of the – including the discovery of .

Sgt. Richard Schultz in Community Policing, who is spearheading the effort within the police department and led Thursday’s meeting, said its purpose was to lay out his vision for the Inter Faith Watch, define its goals and objectives, provide information on available local and county resources and explain to religious leaders the importance of holding a security mindset, both individually and collectively.

In addition to Schultz, representatives from the and the Fire Prevention Bureau also spoke Thursday.

Schultz said he felt most everyone who attended the meeting was receptive to his ideas and that the biggest difficulty will be getting participants to transition from a reactive to a proactive mindset.

“This concept needs to be established, nurtured and maintained rather than let it fall by the wayside only to be resurrected the next time bias crime makes the headlines,” Schultz wrote in an email. “The other hurdle is to get everyone talking with one another and not just with the ones who were in attendance at the meeting, but with those who were not there as well.” 

Schultz acknowledged that he still had a lot of work to do to get the interfaith council off the ground, and said his next step is to mail out packages to all houses of worship, tailored to the individual leaders of each, whether they attended the first meeting or not.

He has yet to set a date for a follow-up meeting, but said he plans to make the rounds at the houses of worship in Fair Lawn that did not have a representative at the meeting to try and get them on board with the idea.

"The surest way to combat the ignorance that fuels bias crime is through the free exchange of ideas, sharing of our knowledge and fostering of religious and cultural exchange amongst our citizens," Schultz said.  "The more we know of each other, the more ownership we will have in each other's safety and the safety of our community."

The houses of worship that were present at Thursday's meeting included:

, , , , , , , , ,  and . 

Reverend Derek Taylor of could not attend due to a conflict, but Schultz said he is supportive of the concept and expressed an interest in participating in the council.

Paul Chaffee February 22, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Kudos to Fair Lawn. People are figuring out new ways to bring different traditions to the interfaith table. A traditional complaint is that such groups are all liberal, progressive groups, and that conservatives wouldn't come even if invited. Simply not true anymore. In the San Francisco Bay Area's Peninsula, more then 300 congregations and all 440 clergy serving them get together collaboratively, happily, constructively, half the time with local civic leaders. Read the story in The Interfaith Observer's February issue at: http://theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2012/2/1/unique-clergy-network-empowers-religion-sector.html.
Elliot Greene February 23, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Please note that Young Israel of Fair Lawn was also represented at the meeting.
Zak Koeske February 23, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Thanks, Elliot. I've added Young Israel to the list

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