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September 20, 2014
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An open letter to Dan Sturm, Town of Bethel Supervisor

By Howie Block
August 21, 2013

Dear Dan,

I am more than perturbed at what went on at last night’s Bethel Town Board meeting. You allowed a woman from our community to go on and on about the “dirty Chasidim” strewing garbage all over the lake. She made several defamatory, derogatory and anti-Semitic remarks about a community that has lived peacefully in Bethel for many generations.

It is unfathomable to me that when Judith Maidenbaum called Marge Brown a name last June you sent an officer to Judy’s business to threaten her with jail, and you screamed at her in my presence, to stick the milfoil that plagues our communal lake up her butt. (And this is only the printable version of what you actually yelled in a tirade.) You went into a rage that day in town hall.

However, you sat rather quietly by last night in a public meeting that you run, governed by rules and regulations against prejudicial language, and allowed one of your constituents to make derisive and probably untrue allegations about a community that really does Bethel no harm. This is nothing more than bigotry in a public forum.

Do their children rob and steal? Have you ever found a Chasidic child breaking into a home in Smallwood? Do their men get rowdy and drunk on our streets and disturb the peace? The most they do is play Jewish music, and that, only during the day when it is allowed. Yet, even that music was cited last night as being disturbing by one of the other attendees at the meeting in what seemed to me was an anti-Chasidic free-for-all.

These are joyful, g-d fearing people.

I have lived in Kauneonga Lake all my life. I have been out in boats and walk up and down our streets. Never did I see any Chasidic women act aggressively toward bikers or toward anyone, as this woman alleged at the meeting. Nor have I seen Chasidic boaters throwing garbage blatantly in the lake. I have picked up hundreds of beer cans dropped by my secular, non-Chasidic, neighbors, but I have never fished even one of the “yalmulkas and yalmukas” this woman claims to have fished out of our lake as garbage.

Bethel is a diverse community. We cannot tolerate the type of blatant discrimination that went on last night, not towards our minorities, ethnic groups, or gays, or anyone who defines themselves as part of anything other than the world at large.

That last night happened is regrettable. But that you, as town supervisor, allowed it and went on with business as usual is unforgivable.