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Monroeville mayor commended for distancing municipality from 'hateful language'

Dillon Carr
| Friday, April 13, 2018, 3:18 p.m.
Sign outside Monroeville municipal building.
Sign outside Monroeville municipal building.

A Pittsburgh Jewish organization commended Monroeville's mayor for recently distancing the municipality from comments made in an “exchange” between a former Gateway school director and members of a multi-faith religious group.

Without mentioning former Gateway school director Steve O'Donnell or Rabbi Barbara Symons by name, Mayor Nick Gresock said at a meeting recently that Monroeville embraces the rich, ethnic and religious diversity in the community.

“As mayor I would like to encourage our community members to respect one another, to work well with one another and to respect each other's differences,” he said.

Cindy Goodman-Leib, chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh's Community Relations Council, commended Gresock in a news release Friday for his comments on what she called “hateful language” by O'Donnell.

“We rely on community leaders to marginalize that hate by letting communities know there is no place for that behavior in our society,” she said.

O'Donnell strongly defended himself at a March meeting after being criticized by members of Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium for making jokes about a skullcap being worn by Symons during a conversation he had with her several weeks ago.

Symons in a March 13 letter to the school board said her Jewish headgear is a sign of respect to God and that O'Donnell mocking it by twice asking “what is that thing on your head” was “anti-Semitic and disrespectful.”

When publicly asked to apologize by the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium, he refused and insisted that Symons owed him an apology.

O'Donnell has since apologized, moved out of the district and resigned his post effective April 4.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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