Mayor Benson Wong issued a proclamation at the July 6 city council meeting regarding Mercer Island’s rejection of anti-Semitism and hate crimes against those of the Jewish faith.
In declaring its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the city — which houses a robust Jewish community — first passed the proclamation in 2016.
“We urge all our members and residents of our community to treat each other with respect and to stand up and work together to overcome all expressions of hate and bigotry,” Wong said on behalf of the city council.
According to the proclamation, the city perpetually strives to make the Island stronger and healthier by rejecting stigma and bias against individuals because of race, ethnicity, place of origin, physical ability, socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or religion.
The city remains firmly committed to the well-being and safety of its Jewish community members in its synagogues, schools, community centers and other institutions, and encourages residents to report anti-Semitic incidents to the proper authorities.
“I want to thank my colleagues for sending a strong message to the Jewish community on Mercer Island that we do care and we will stand together,” said councilmember David Rosenbaum, a member of the Mercer Island Jewish community.
In the school realm this year, Mercer Island High School seniors Bella Hartman and Samantha Wampold were upset by an anti-Semitic incident they witnessed on Schoology and invited Holocaust survivors to speak to freshmen and sophomore students during the virtual Islander Hour.
“A few students had posted some pictures relating to the Holocaust and denying the Holocaust,” Wampold said of the Schoology scenario in a previous Reporter article. After posting some of the images on her Instagram, she received 186 comments, some of which were personal attacks on Wampold. In a show of community strength, a host of parents jumped in and came to her aid.
Added Hartman: “We wanted to come up with an idea that would let students know why the Holocaust is relevant to today and why it should never be joked about.”
Wampold was deeply affected by Holocaust survivor Andy Sarkany’s talk about striving to create a more inclusive community and get “hate” out of the way.
Parks and Recreation Month
At the July 6 city council meeting, Wong and the council also marked July as Parks and Recreation Month in accordance with a U.S. House of Representatives designation.
Pointing toward the city’s recreation reset plan during the pandemic, the proclamation notes that more than 1,000 residents have participated in this summer’s plethora of youth camps.
According to the proclamation, the parks and recreation programs “are vitally important to establishing and maintaining the quality of life in our community, ensuring the health of all citizens, and contributing to the economic and environmental well-being of our community and region.”
City recreation and operations manager Ryan Daly said in a previous Reporter article that families are comfortable getting their kids outside to camps this summer, and the contractors are spot on with health and safety protocols.
On the kids’ eagerness to attend camps, Daly added: “They’ve actually come back even stronger at this point.”
The city is also deep in discussions to update its six-year Parks, Recreation, and Open Space (PROS) Plan, which guides the programming and capital projects necessary in tapping into the community’s needs for parks, recreation, open space, trails, arts and cultural events, according to the city’s website.