Cherry Hill promotes anti-bias message through new video, committee

At Monday night’s Cherry Hill Township Council meeting, township officials debuted a video entitled “Hate Has No Home in Cherry Hill” and announced the creation of a Human Relations Advisory Committee.

Dozens of Cherry Hill residents, business owners and community leaders stood in solidarity during a video filmed earlier in March. The people in the video came from different backgrounds, but they all had the same message: Hate has no home in Cherry Hill.

This is a message township officials want to get across for years to come. At Monday night’s council meeting, the township debuted its “Hate Has No Home in Cherry Hill” video and announced the creation of a Human Relations Advisory Committee.

The committee and video were created over the past month to provide a sense of comfort and unity for residents who have felt uneasy in the wake of bias and hate crimes taking place around the country.

“We thought it was important to be proactive,” Mayor Chuck Cahn said. “Rather than waiting until something happens in our town and then trying to be a resource, we said, let’s not wait. Let’s bring the community together.”

The township’s anti-bias response was two-fold. Earlier in March, the township teamed with a group of Cherry Hill High School West broadcasting students to create a film entitled “Hate Has No Home in Cherry Hill.” The two-minute, 26-second video features dozens of community members from local businesses, religious organizations, schools and more, all proclaiming the same message.

Seniors Kacper Miklus and Nick Alberto and sophomore Zach McAuliffe spent an entire March day going around to film the video. The trio then spent time editing the video in the weeks leading up to the release.

“We were excited,” Miklus said. “It’s experience in filming and editing, and it’s for a good cause. We wanted to help spread the message.”

One of the best parts of the day for the students was getting to meet numerous community members whom they had never known before. They also got to visit many parts of the township. Some of the filming locations included the municipal building, Cherry Hill Mall, Wegmans, King of Pizza and numerous religious buildings, schools and parks.

“The mall was our first stop,” McAuliffe said. “From there, we were just cranking out videos and going around town.”

Alberto felt visiting dozens of locations in Cherry Hill and meeting many warm and receptive people made the video even more special.

Dozens of Cherry Hill community members were represented in the video, “Hate Has No Home In Cherry Hill.”

“When we went on the trip, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But once I actually got to go to all of the different places and see all of the different religions, it really showed how diverse Cherry Hill was.”

The three students received certificates for their work on the video. Cahn felt they did a great job in getting the township’s message across in the video.

“They represent the diversity of our students,” Cahn said. “They are the future. They were no different than everybody in front of the camera.”

The township plans to continue its no hate message for years with its newest committee. The Human Relations Advisory Committee consists of 16 members who will work to promote diversity throughout town and provide a resource for residents in dealing with feelings of threat or fear.

“I want all of our residents to know with this Human Relations Advisory Committee that’s now being formed, that they have an outlet, a resource, a place they can come to. That they can talk to,” Cahn said.

The committee consists of numerous township, civic and religious leaders. Some members include Cahn, council president Dave Fleisher, Chief of Police William Monaghan and Cherry Hill Public Schools Superintendent Joe Meloche. The committee will meet quarterly, with additional meetings scheduled on as-needed basis.

“We would only hope it would continue to foster continued dialogue between all of the religious leaders, civic leaders, the residents,” Cahn said. “It can only help with that message and give a safe space for people to come out and voice their opinion without fear, retribution or anger.”

Even with a video and newly formed committee, many agree it will take a concerted effort for residents to continue promoting Cherry Hill as an inclusive community.

“Even though it was just a video, anyone can be part of this by spreading the message that there’s no place for hate,” McAuliffe said.