Abraham Is New Mayor

(From: The Teaneck Suburbanite, July 8, 1992)

By Beverly O'Shea

Mayor John AbrahamNewly selected Mayor John Abraham was scheduled to preside Tuesday night over the first regular session of the township council that took office before a spillover crowd in the Teaneck Public Library auditorium July 1.

In his acceptance statement, Abraham calle on God to help Teaneck work out of its problems.

"I have felt the sting of discrimination," he said. "I am also a person of color."

In the overflow audience were many other Indian-Americans proud that one of their own had been named mayor of Teaneck. After Abraham was sworn in by Municipal Court Judge James Young Jr., one man yelled something that others from India said was an old saying meaning "He's a winner!"

Abraham's selection was voted by four council members: himself, the preceding mayor, Eleanor Kieliszek, former Mayor Frank Hall and Paul Ostrow.

Councilmen Peter Bower and Edward Mel Henderson, the sole newcomer, and Councilwoman Loretta Weinberg wrote the name of Bower on their blank mayoral ballot papers. When prodded by Kieliszek to make the selection unanimous, they did not change their votes.

Weinberg had jumped in early, before the voting, with a statement supporting Bower, top vote-getter, and Henderson. She asked each council member to give his or her reasons when they voted for mayor, but her suggestion was not followed. Kieliszek did give an impromptu speech about supporting Abraham.

The same 4-3 split appeared in balloting for the position of deputy mayor, which went to Ostrow. The other candidate was Henderson, whose vote in the May election was second to Bower's. Meliszek was the third May winner.

Henderson, the sole black on the governing body, followed their swearing in by Young with a prepared statement pledging he will work "diligently" with every member of the council. He said he believes council members "have a responsibility to put aside any personal differences and rededicate ourselves to the healing process of our town.

"The new councilman was referring to the fatal shooting of teenager Phillip Pannell by Police Officer Gary Spath and its aftermath.

Balloting was unanimous when the council again chose Michael Kates as the township attorney.

Calling his selection a proud moment for him, Abraham read a statement starting with a prayer that with God's guidance "we can define a path out of our multitude of problems." Problems, as well as enormous strength," emerge when residents of a community with ethnic, cultural and religious diversity are learning to "live with one another," he said. Abraham pledged to serve as a catalyst for good government and harmony.

The new mayor, who left his native India to work as a textile engineer in Tanzania, arrived in the United States in 1972.

Referring to the idea that he is one of the few elected officials of Asian Indian birth in the United States, Abraham pointed out Teaneck was among the first communities to elect a Jewish mayor, an African- American mayor and a woman mayor.

When Abraham said he was extending his hand to his council colleagues, Bower and Henderson gave statements accepting the gesture.

The only business the council conducted was renaming the Patriotic Observances Advisory Board so that it could run the Fourth of July parade last Saturday.

Weinberg unsuccessfully sought to open the meeting comments by any of the approximately 200 attending the ceremony. Kates ruled that any public comment should be confined to the one resolution, on the patriotic board, but no one came forward to speak.


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