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From Dutch To Diverse
By Judy Distler
Three hundred years ago in Teaneck...life must have been boring. Although one might not have missed playing PacMan on Cedar Lane, or hearing the loud hum of a lawnmower at eight in the morning. Teaneck in 1683 was also missing the exciting diversity that makes us so proud of Our Town today.
In the good old days, when there were only the Dutch and the Indians, an international fair or dinner could not have had much to offer. Today, you might have foods and costumes from 24 different countries. At Teaneck High School, where everyone shares the same goals and pride in their school, there are at least that many native languages spoken by members of the student body.
Being part of the local international scene means you can sample escovitch, baklava, pizza, curry, croisants, blintzes, or moo goo gai pan with a radius of miles. The selection at the Olde Trading Post on the Hackensack River was limited to local game and farm produce, and probably consisted mainly of corn bread; corn syrup; corn, meat and fish stew; corn dumplings; corn on the cob; and corn liquor. Today's supermarkets offer a heterogeneous population foods from all over the world. For those who want charm and warmth when they're shopping, there are small stores and gourmet shops scattered throughout town.
Apart from pleasing the palate, our delightful multi-ethnicity opens up a world of cultural experiences. At a 17th century gathering. the Demarests, Westervelts, Van Buskirks, and Kiersteds might have tried a dance or two, but they probably would have been inhibited by a need to exercise caution. After all, an unfortunate young thing had been subject to gossip for reportedly raising her skirts to high, and this when she was walking, not even dancing. Today, dance performances, concerts and theater are offered by talented students, residents and visiting artists. Enrichment programs, afterschool activities, and PTA-sponsored programs bring us a figurative taste of many land.
Diversity occasionally leads to differences of opinion, but usually these are the result of people of many backgrounds uniting behind a cause. Vocal citizens may cause sparks at public meetings, but there is hardly anyone who would trade a hot School Board or Township Council meeting for a quiet game of nine-pins. More often than not, diversity is synonymous with harmony.
Tee Neck of 1683 was not Utopia, and we haven't reached that state today, but, as Mayor Bernard Brooks noted at an ecumenical Thanksgiving service. "We're striving for perfection...and we're proud of the fact that in Teaneck we can say, we walk hand in hand today."
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410