RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — When the Community Relations Advisory Board (CRAB) of Ridgewood and Glen Rock meets next week, it will discuss an anti-Semitic incident in Ridgewood, its chairperson said.
“It was very emotional because it happened at one of the schools,” said the Rev. Jan Philips of Ridgewood, a Quaker.
“We have students on our committee and they brought it forward. I promised we would talk about it again.”
Since those who air their grievances before the committee are guaranteed anonymity, no details can be revealed, according to Philips.
She added only that the incident, which was handled by the school, involved a seventh-grade girl.
“There is a question with the committee about the difference between bias, bias intimidation, a bias act and a bias crime,” she explained.
“This incident didn’t rise to any of those levels. That’s part of the discussion we’ll have March 15.”
Since the late 1980s, when CRAB formed, it has faithfully met in Ridgewood the third Wednesday of every month.
Its mission: to support victims of bias crimes and create intercultural experiences that promote awareness and sensitivity.
Every meeting opens with an opportunity to come forward for people who have been victims of discrimination based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
CRAB’s constancy in meeting is key, according to Philips.
It’s important, she said, that people know there’s a place for them to go.
The 12 to 20 members of CRAB include police, faith and civic leader as well as students, all from Ridgewood and Glen Rock.
Two incidents in the 1980s sparked the creation of CRAB.
The first involved a bag of feces left on the front porch and doorstep of an African American family that recently had moved to Ridgewood.
The second involved an African American attorney who entered a Ridgewood Avenue building to pick up a rent check from an apartment he owned.
“He was stopped,” Philips recalled.
“The empowering piece is that those two incidents brought the community together. There was an ongoing feeling this was not going to happen in our village.”
CRAB now has a number of initiatives under way, including its safety pin campaign.
Wearing a pin visually signals empathy for women, Muslims, the LGBQ community, immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities — anyone experiencing trouble based on their identity.
Committee members also hand out multi-lingual cards at nail salons, hair studios and restaurants, in the latter case, usually with the check.
They contain messages of support for undocumented workers experiencing unfair labor practices.
Philips’ background makes her uniquely suited to chair CRAB. Raised in Fair Lawn, she was born to a Jewish mother and Roman Catholic father.
Her family were civil rights and anti-war activists in the Vietnam era, she said.
Her grandparents were union organizers.
Philips holds a master’s degree in non-violent conflict and change from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Citizenship.
CRAB will meet 7:30 p.m. March 15 in the Garden Room of the Ridgewood Municipal Building, 131 N. Maple Ave.
Victims of bullying and bias related incidents can reach CRAB at CRABNJ@gmail.com.
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