Editor’s note: The following letter came to us from Board of Education Member and former Town Council President Barbara Cifelli-Sherry. In print, her letter was edited for space reasons. Here, we present to you Barbara’s entire letter.
To the Editor:
It happened again! I ran into a former Kearny resident (a retired municipal employee) the other day. While we were exchanging niceties, the conversation suddenly turned into a Kearny-bashing. You know what I mean. “The town has really changed.” “This is not the Kearny where I grew up.” “These people don’t take pride in their town.” And my very favorite, “Does anyone speak English here anymore?”
Allow me to preface the following comments by stating that I have absolutely no problem with anyone leaving their hometown to pursue that home near the ocean, that cabin in the woods or simply to experience something new. I applaud their sense of adventure and wish them all good things. The thing that I find objectionable, and truthfully quite offensive, is the need to justify the relocation by bad-mouthing the place they once called home. In most cases, Kearny educated them, provided recreational facilities, protected them and in this particular case, offered an opportunity to earn a living.
While I don’t really believe that Kearny needs defending, as a proud Kearnyite, I feel obligated to refute the more obvious criticisms. Has Kearny changed? Of course it has. Everything changes. Change is not necessarily bad. And the “old days” were not always as good as we remember them. Every era has its problems, which when tempered by hindsight always seem less serious than current issues.
The most troublesome remarks are the not-so-veiled references to the changing demographics here in Kearny.
“Those people” and the languages they speak seem to take the brunt of the blame for the decline and fall of our once-fair town! Seriously? Those who stake claim to such rhetoric, need to be reminded that Kearny has always been a refuge for immigrants from all over the world … earlier from the British Isles and Western Europe and more recently, from South America and Asia. Many ethnic groups have contributed to the spirit and character of this community. It’s one of the things I love most about living here. The older I get, the more I realize that all immigrant experience is basically the same. Only the places of origin change. I have lived in three different neighborhoods with very diverse neighbors. They didn’t always speak English as a first language, but they were always responsible, kind and helpful.
My point is: I love this town. I feel safe, comfortable and happy here. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, I plan to live out my days in Kearny. So please, refrain from insulting my home! Just say, “Thank you and good luck,” as you leave and we will wish you the same.
Board of Education member
Former Town Council member and president