In a set-up worthy of a Parks and Recreation-style sitcom, a Muslim and an Orthodox Jew are working side by side as mayor and deputy mayor in the suburban New York town of Teaneck, N.J.
In his latest Our Towns column, Peter Appelbome of the New York Times reported that July 1 marked the start of new terms in Teaneck for Mohammed Hameeduddin as mayor and Adam Gussen as his deputy. (Hameeduddin was elected 5-2 by his fellow city council members.) And it gets better: The two politicians have been friends since middle school.
“I don’t care,” Rabbi A. S. Teicher, who manages a religious shop in Teaneck, told the Times. “As long as [Hameeduddin] does the job, why should I have a problem with what he does at home?”
In the 1960s, Teaneck, now home to 15 synagogues, many of them orthodox, and two mosques, was the first majority white community in the country to voluntarily de-segregate its public schools.
Still, this story is not all sunshine and roses: Teaneck is currently 30 percent black, and NorthJersey.com reported that some residents were shocked that Lizette Parker, a candidate who had served as deputy mayor since 2006, did not clinch the vote to become the town’s first African-American female mayor.
Barbara Ley Toffler, another council member who (along with Parker herself) voted against Hameeduddin, was quick to cut through any Kumbaya moment that might be brewing. She alleged that the other votes were in favor of spending cuts, not interfaith togetherness. “It’s not a sweet and happy story,” she told the Times.
Hold the violins.