Teaneck Vigil Earns Honor for Antiwar Efforts

Teaneck vigil earns honor for antiwar efforts

Teaneck Peace Vigil
Teaneck Peace Vigil
April 23, 2014    Last updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 3:53 PM
By Megan Burrow
Managing Editor
Teaneck Suburbanite

TEANECK – Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, local activists have gathered in Teaneck to call for an end to war. Once a month, the group would stand at the corner of Cedar Lane and Teaneck Road, with signs protesting the war and calling for peace.

In 2005, the Teaneck Peace Vigil moved to its present location just outside the Teaneck Armory, where it has gathered for more than 450 consecutive weeks.

Later this month, the vigil will be honored at New Jersey Peace Action’s annual dinner for its longstanding antiwar efforts.

Now sponsored by Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 21-NJ and residents of Bergen County, vigil members stand on the corner every Wednesday afternoon, through snowstorms, rain and bitterly cold and extremely hot days.

The Teaneck Peace Vigil has worked closely with New Jersey Peace Action through the years, said Paula Rogovin, a Teaneck resident and one of the founders of the group. During the group’s larger vigils, Madelyn Hoffman, the executive director of New Jersey Peace Action, has come and spoken, and the groups have also walked together over the George Washington Bridge to participate in marches in New York City.

While she appreciates the honor, Rogovin said she wishes it were celebrating the end of the need for the vigil.

“I wish it was a joyous event honoring us and our work, but our vigil is going to continue until the War in Afghanistan is over and we’re at a point right now where we fear the war will be extended, so it’s kind of bittersweet,” she said.

Currently the vigil is working with several national groups on a campaign called “Zero Troops in Afghanistan,” to press for all troops to return home now.

Over the years, Rogovin said, she believes the vigil has made a difference by getting people to think and speak about wars that often do not get much press coverage and have not personally touched many lives.

“Only a small percentage of American families have a family member in the military, and the media does not cover these issues. They get pushed aside. We have called it to the attention of the public,” she said. “When we’re standing there on that corner every Wednesday, there are hundreds of people who drive by. Some wave, or call out the window in support, and what happens is the people in those cars and buses have conversations, and in many cases those conversations are continued at home.”

People who have participated in the vigil, some who never got involved in protests or demonstrations before, have gone on to participate in other antiwar efforts, joining Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. Some have worked with the group Warrior Writers, a non-profit that helps veterans articulate their experiences or joined the Combat Paper Project, which makes paper from veterans’ uniforms, and then uses the paper for art and poetry.

One couple that has been a fixture at the weekly vigil is Mary and Henry Shoiket, 99 and 95 respectfully. They’ve been activists for decades and are at the corner each week no matter what the weather. This winter they could be seen standing in a foot of snow with Henry shouting his familiar chant into his bullhorn.

In a press release, Hoffman said the organization chose to honor the Teaneck vigil for its years of dedication to the antiwar campaign.

“The Teaneck Peace Vigil is not solely an antiwar vigil on a street corner,” she said. “It is a weekly reminder about the wars, which are largely not covered in the news. Over time, thousands of people have seen the vigil as they walked or went by in cars, buses, and trucks.”

The April 27 dinner will also feature Sharon Dolev, the founder and director of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, who is receiving the Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker award. The Israeli Disarmament Movement supports a nuclear weapons ban, the establishment of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East and backs the Arab Peace Initiative. Dolev has worked as the director of Greenpeace in Israel and as a disarmament campaigner. She will be speaking on the topic: “Cooling the Hot Spot: a Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East.”

Also being honored that evening is José Santiago, the former news director of WBAI, who will receive the Sylvia & Oscar Ackelsberg Peace Award for his longtime work to publicize the efforts of grass roots activists in New Jersey and New York.

Email: burrow@northjersey.com

The annual dinner will be held at the Regency House, 140 Route 23, North Pompton Plains. Reservations are required. Visit njpeaceaction.org or call 973 259 1126. Dinner tickets are $75.

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