Planting a Peace Pole

November 18th, 2011

By Jan Barry

Jules Orkin and Puffin Peace PoleDedicating a Peace Pole at a community cultural center in Teaneck, NJ drew a small crowd of local officials, school children and war veterans the other day.

The carved wood pole was dedicated at the Puffin Foundation, as a band from Thomas Jefferson Middle School played and adults took turns exhorting the students and a television audience via a cable news program to help advance a cause that is often hard to hear in a nation engaged in seemingly perpetual war in various corners of the world.

“A world without war is a universal desire by untold millions of people,” Puffin Foundation Executive Director Gladys Miller-Rosenstein said on behalf of herself and her husband Perry Rosenstein, a retired industrialist and noted philanthropist. “We have sought to have our voices for peace heard. We have erected a ‘Peace Pole’ on our property. This pole will be shared by many young and old, who will take part in the varied cultural activities at our Forum. … There are presently 264 peace sites throughout New Jersey. We are proud to be one of the new sites in our state.”

“This is a community peace pole,” added Neil Rosenstein, vice president of the Puffin Foundation. “Peace is only achieved through community.” One of the community leaders, School Superintendent Barbara Pinsak, praised the Rosensteins—whose foundation assists local and regional arts programs, conservation and environmental education programs, as well as social action and investigative journalism projects—as role models.

“This is one of the things I am very proud to welcome to Teaneck,” said state Senator Loretta Weinberg, a well-known champion for a substantial agenda of domestic issues. “May peace prevail on Earth,” she said, quoting the message on the pole, which is printed in eight languages. “It is not an easy goal. It’s a long struggle.”

The idea of planting a peace pole at the Puffin Foundation, which hosts an eclectic collection of outdoors sculpture, was proposed by Jules Orkin, a member of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 21 New Jersey. A retired bookstore owner from neighboring Bergenfield, Orkin was named a Puffin Peace Fellow earlier this year in recognition of his participation in numerous peace walks, vigils and civil disobedience actions in protest of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his comments, Orkin proposed organizing “a walk between peace poles,” such as the annual walk in neighboring Leonia between peace poles at the high school and the Methodist Church to mark the United Nations International Day of Peace. And then he was off to pack for a peace walk from Atlanta, Georgia to Ft. Benning, Georgia to protest the training program based there for military officers from Latin American nations that until recently were bastions of military dictatorships.

Walt Nygard, vice president of Veterans For Peace Chapter 21, spoke about transforming Veterans Day to the original, peacemaking intent of Armistice Day.

Township Councilwoman Barbara Toffler offered an historic note of hope for peaceful change in the world. “There is a legacy of peace in Teaneck,” she said, holding up a copy of Teaneck High School’s 1959 yearbook. “The Class of 1959 dedicated its yearbook to peace,” she said, reading from that dedication, composed amid the Cold War nuclear missile stand-off with the Soviet Union by students who were born during World War II.

Peace Poles grew out of a project of The World Peace Prayer Society that began in Japan in 1955 as a response to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For more information:

Teaneck Peace Ceremony Spans All Ages
The Peace Pole Project

(This article was also posted at EarthAirWater.)

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Categories: Arts, Life, Politics | Comments (4) | Home

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4 Responses to “Planting a Peace Pole”

  1. Tom Carter |

    I don’t question the nobility of advocating for peace. Anyone who’s experienced it knows at first hand that war is a terrible thing. Few people in the military want war, precisely because they know what it’s like and what it does to people, including noncombatants. (I say “few” because even though in three decades of military service I never met anyone who felt differently, I guess there must be a few.)

    The hard reality is that there will always be conflict as long as human beings with all their foibles exist on Earth. To simply declare that we “ain’t gonna study war no more” doesn’t mean anything, any more than current slogans like “give peace a chance” and “make love not war” have any functional meaning.

    It’s much more practical and meaningful to discuss and debate specific issues of war and foreign policy. Should we have invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein? Should we still be up to our hips in an endless war in Afghanistan? My answers are “yes, but” and “no.” But there have been other wars — and military policies — that are justified. That’s just the way it is.

  2. Dan Miller |

    Well, yes. But doesn’t it feel good to sing, with eyes lifted serenely toward Heaven, I’d like to buy the world a coke and live in perfect harmony; to march for peace, prosperity and the end of privation for all; to advocate credits for reductions in carbon while flitting about the world in private jets to further the noble cause; to advocate the redistribution of other people’s money to do good stuff? Sure it does. Good stuff is good.

    Damn! I’m cynical.

  3. Jan |

    Well, guys, we didn’t have a war with the Soviet Union, thanks to a lot of folks doing their peace thing (including Ronald Reagan).

  4. Tom Carter |

    Jan, that’s absolutely true. The reason there wasn’t a war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — aside from proxy wars — was the relative strength of the two superpowers. They had the power to devastate our country, and we had the power to devastate them worse (weird comparison, but true). That permitted the situation of mutually assured destruction (MAD) that kept either country from pushing the other too far.

    If the U.S. had drastically cut defense spending and unilaterally done away with nuclear weapons and most other forms of military strength, as some folks then and now advocate, the Soviet Union would have been unchecked. Instead of the Soviet Union losing the Cold War and disintegrating, it would undoubtedly be the most powerful nation in the world today, and that certainly wouldn’t be in our interest or that of most of the rest of the world.

    Sherman’s famous statement, “War is all hell,” is and always has been true. No rational person wants it, but a nation that emasculates itself in a chimerical pursuit of peace leaves itself open to domination and, most likely, war. We should continue to be what we have been throughout our history — a nation that seeks peace in the world but can and will defend itself if necessary.

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