Submitted by Valerie Rushanan and Marilou Barsam

Bedford-Embraces-Diversity_Every Bedford resident I’ve spoken to regarding recent incidents of anti-Semitism in town reacts in shock and disbelief. Surely, that can’t happen here, or the problem is very small. Bedford has a history of promoting multiculturalism and diversity, especially through the schools, which serve families of many different backgrounds and make-ups.

Unfortunately, we soon discovered that problems of bias and disrespect exist in our town and others in the area. There were not only subsequent reports of anti-Semitism, but people of different races, faiths, and nationalities, military families, and other backgrounds have reported uncomfortable incidents directed at them over the years. To address the earlier incidents, some local businesses volunteered to participate in a cultural sensitivity training program. Still, the problems persist, and we are committed to taking action to address them.

Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills formed a task force, and suggested a dual approach: specific educational information to fight discrimination, as well as broad celebrations of all types of diversity. From the task force, several committees formed: one is working to support the schools; another is clergy-based; and the third, on which I serve, is community-based.

Our committee has been working to understand the extent of the problem, and to define our mission. Our main goals are educating the community, celebrating differences, and taking action. We are discussing ideas for our group’s name, and will create a website to provide resources and announce our events.

We are actively looking for people from a broad variety of backgrounds because we want your perspectives and ideas for the events we’re planning. So far, that includes a multicultural festival for spring 2015, and a preview for it at Bedford Day in September, 2014, featuring a booth, a fun activity, contact information, and flyers.

The next meeting of the community-based committee is Wednesday, August 13, 7–9 PM in the Bedford Public Library’s conference room (3rd floor). Please join us, help your cultural background be properly represented and understood, and help your community.

For additional information, please contact Valerie Rushanan at valrushanan@verizon.net.

Thanks for your support!

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