Teaneck, a Small Town Big Enough for Everyone

Any public discussion about religion can quickly turn into a loud argument these days. Dave Price from The Early Show shows a town that's become an example of how to get along - despite your differences.

Far away from the religious strife of the Middle East and the simmering tensions of our post September 11 world, there's an oasis of hope in the small community of Teaneck, New Jersey.

Thirty percent of its residents are Jewish, and their new mayor is a practicing Muslim.

Working together to keep this community not only intact but flourishing, are Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin and his Deputy Adam Gussen - an Orthodox Jew.

Mayor Hameeduddin says Teaneck "is an incubator for understanding." He added, "it's not a homogeneous community - and you want your children in a community where they're going to meet all different kinds of people."

"The things that are most important are the things that we share in common," Gussen added. "Our differences become less important."

Teaneck is like looking through a cultural prism - reflected on "Main Street" throughout its restaurants and shops. The sounds of prayer that ring out from the town form a diverse constituency within a tiny 6 square mile radius.

"Is there a Jewish way to fill a pot hole? Is there a Muslim way to plow the streets," Gussen asks. "The answer is, no."

It's that practicality and synchronicity that are sources of pride for Teaneck's residents.

"There are people of all kinds here, and you should be able to get along with everybody," said Teaneck resident Aggie Siletski.

"So what do you say to the people who say this is a small community in New Jersey - this isn't the rest of the country," Price asked.

Teaneck resident Amber Sheikh replied, "Small little people, small little communities are the ones who got into the world and change is slowly, right?"

This town of 39,000 has often been at the forefront of cultural diversity and change - stretching all the way back to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's.

In the spring of 1964, Teaneck became the first American town with a white majority to desegregate its schools.

Fast forward 46 years and that mission for equality is still clear.

"Are there things that happen in Teaneck that could happen elsewhere? Yeah, I really think there are," Gussen said.

"It shows that kids can dream a little bigger - that they don't have to worry about all the stereotypes," Hameeduddin added. "Anybody can do anything," he said. "That's what it really comes down to.
  • Dave Price

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