New Jersey Human Relations Council
Former UCHRC co-chair Jack Weinshanker (2002-2004) continues to serve on the state’s Human Relations Council, and keeps the UCHRC apprised of its focus and efforts. Following the state meetings, he reports back to the UCHRC any news, developments, concerns, and/or information of interest, and continues to keep the Board posted of their progress and the agenda of future meetings. Commissioner Weinshanker noted that the Council’s discussions parallel ours in several areas.
1. Unity Award Program:
He reported that the Council had developed an award program on the state level, very similar to the UCHRC’s award program. Their first annual award presentation, held at the WWII War Memorial in Trenton on October 20th, 2005, was “exceptional.” He noted that the Law Enforcement award was presented to Colonel Rick Fuentes of the State Police, for responding to current mandates in a constructive way that did not create bad feelings, and in a manner that gained the respect of many people in the manner that the State Police handle minority issues. Colonel Fuentes spoke mainly about the contributions of the State Police in New Orleans. A special student award was presented to a group of high school students who put together, wrote and acted out a dramatic presentation about their responses to the suicide by a student who was bullied. The award highlighted their willingness to spend time and commitment to address a concern in other people’s lives. He noted that putting an Award program together is a lot of work, but is well worth the effort.
2. Conflict resolution:
He reported that the Attorney General and others in authoritative places have made it clear there is a recognized need for advice, insight and recommendations for conflict resolution in communities who are targeted for violence but are unwilling to surface. He noted there is no clear answer yet on what to do about it. The UCHRC is fully aware that this continues to be an important area where we can make a positive contribution, and that we can help some of those who are, in a sense, the weakest in the community. He also noted that the Council is looking to providing mandatory sensitivity training to municipal court employees, focusing on helping people to relate to others in a humane way.
In the wake of fraud and scams arising from the effort to provide relief from the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, the New Jersey Human Relations Council and state Office of Bias Crime & Community Relations distributed a list of legitimate agencies and appropriate organizations which accepted donations to assist victims. The Council emphasized the importance of enabling those people who mean well to do so legitimately, constructively and effectively in a way that has integrity.
Several UCHRC Commissioners always attend the annual Human Relations Commission Leadership Conference, co-hosted by the New Jersey Human Relations Council and New Jersey’s Office of Bias Crime & Community Relations.
The Council noted its strong interest and concern in developments in Freehold, New Jersey regarding alleged harassment and abuse of day laborers and their families, and that the issues confronting the undocumented and non-citizen residents would be a major element of the 2004 HRC Leadership Conference. One Commissioner who attended the conference reported that he was impressed with the dedication of the people who are involved in these community efforts. He shared that by 2015, New Jersey will be the 4th largest state in the country with an immigrant population, and that the number of undocumented residents will increase, impacting society, jobs, housing, education, and other citizens. It was also noted that the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to protect the rights of immigrants, and that undocumented residents cannot be denied an education.