Resident tells Rockville Centre board that 'a synagogue cannot be on every residential street'

Michelle Zangari wrote a letter to Rabbi Mendel Gurkov, who owns the home, saying she never intended to create feelings of divisiveness.

News 12 Staff

Apr 11, 2022, 9:31 AM

Updated 732 days ago


Nassau residents and local officials expressed outrage at what they deemed antisemitic comments made at a Rockville Centre board meeting.
The board was discussing a home in Marlborough Court with a large menorah in front of it.
A resident identifying herself as Michelle Zangari responded to the discussion with what some say were antisemitic remarks.
"This is very emotional for anyone who lives through the transformation of the Five Towns, many of those people live in Rockville Centre now," Zangari said. "It began exactly this way. Rabbis and their families purchased homes, creating small synagogues. Congregants then looked to buy property nearby."
Zangari then went on to say, "I am asking you to amend the village code so that a synagogue cannot be on every residential street like they are on the Five Towns. Please believe me and every Five Towns transplant that it can happen because we watched it happen."
Village Mayor Francis Murray responded at the meeting by saying, "The board will be very concerned and look into it immediately."
Zangari wrote a letter to Rabbi Mendel Gurkov, who owns the home, saying she never intended to create feelings of divisiveness.
"This is my private home, but as a Chabad, I believe my home should also be a source of anyone who needs that knowledge about Judaism or anything at all," Gurkov says. "Like a favor, food, clothes or anything, to be able to knock on my door and ask personally."
In response, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Rep. Tom Suozzi said on Twitter that these comments were antisemitic and should have been condemned. 
Hochul said, "The despicable and antisemitic rhetoric used at a Rockville Centre board of trustees meeting has no place in our state. We must root out hate wherever it rears its ugly head."
Blakeman said in part, "Freedom to practice religion and freedom to live where one chooses are rights guaranteed by the Constitution…It is the duty of responsive public officials to condemn the type of antisemitic hate speech that was in evidence at the Rockville Centre Village Board Meeting."
Rep. Suozzi said in part, "Regardless of the intent of the speaker, the remarks are antisemitic and must be called out."
Some residents still were left confused about why the menorah was in front of the house.
"I completely believe in freedom of religion and freedom of expression but Hanukkah ended five months ago so I'm just wondering why it's still up and what's going on in that house where they feel the need to keep that up," says Kenneth Nugent.
Gurkov says the menorah is a symbol to let other Jewish people know that a Chabad rabbi lives there.
"As a Chabad rabbi we enhance the community in any way in which the community needs," Gurkov says.
Video playback of the meeting from April 4 can be found on the village's website.
Rockville Centre's board issued a statement, saying in part, "Rockville Centre remains a welcoming, caring and inclusive community that embraces all members of the village."
Rabbi Gurkov says he wants an official apology from the village.
"The content of what was said was prejudice," Gurkov says. "I believe there has to be a response and a pathway forward."

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