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As OneMontville enters its sixth year of promoting Acceptance, Respect and Kindness in Montville Township, New Jersey, the organization has opened up the popular “OneMontville Unites” speaker series to a podcast format.
Michael Scilingo and Bansari Modi Shah host the new “OneMontville Unites” podcast, which launched on Monday, October 5, 2020.
“The goal is really to help people understand issues that they have not had a chance to understand,” said Modi Shah of the “OneMontville Unites” podcast, as well as the many upcoming OneMontville activities.
“OneMontville Unites - Episode 1” features Superintendent of Montville Township Public Schools, Dr. René Rovtar and focuses on: “Empathy and Its Role in Our Community,” which also happens to be the title of a recent article co-authored by Scilingo and Modi Shah.
“If we want to come together to work toward common goals,” Modi Shah said while discussing the empathy article she and Scilingo wrote, “We need to come together and listen to one another. Everybody has something to contribute.”
“Your article is a quick read,” Rovtar said when asked her reaction. “We are not asking people to read a novel. [Your article] so succinctly lays out -- as you say, it describes -- empathy, it gives examples, and then it really does talk about why empathy is so important for, what I would consider to be, a healthy community.”
Under Rovtar’s guidance, the Montville Township Public Schools District has been named a nationally recognized District of Character. The elementary schools and middle school are each also nationally recognized as Schools of Character, by Character.org.
“The overreaching theme of OneMontville has always been Acceptance, Respect and Kindness,” Rovtar explained, adding that the organization is comprised of members from throughout the community including businesses, clergy, parents, senior citizens, Township Committee Members, Board of Education Members, teachers, administrators, police officers, students, community members and more.
“We are one community, despite our differences,” Rovtar said.
Rovtar, who founded OneMontville when she arrived in the district six years ago, began by noting how incredibly supportive and generous the Montville Township community is. The Superintendent described in detail how inspiring it is to be in a community where people get extremely involved.
“And they don’t just write a check,” she said, “They do that too, but, they really get involved. They really step up to help one another.”
However, Rovtar did express concern about some rhetoric, particularly on social media.
“I hate to go back to social media,” she said. “But that is probably the place where people pile on. Whatever happened to: ‘That’s your opinion and you are entitled to it?’ Without the animosity?”
Regarding Scilingo and Modi Shah’s article, “Empathy and Its Role in Our Community,” Rovtar noted: “You really highlight that, part of empathy, encourages you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
“OneMontville Unites” hosts Scilingo and Modi Shah did not know each other before they discovered on social media that they had a common interest: Empathy.
The two reached out to one another to discuss what they could do to help promote a more civil discourse among people with differing opinions, particularly on social media. Separately they had also reached out to members of the Montville Township Committee, the township’s elected officials. There they were encouraged to connect with OneMontville.
Scilingo & Modi Shah’s conversations with each other led to group discussions, and those discussions grew into an initiative to shift “OneMontville Unites,” which had been an in-person speaker series, to a podcast format.
“This is an opportunity for all members in the Montville Township community to participate in OneMontville’s outstanding presentations,” said OneMontville President Shari Schwartz. “Before COVID we often discussed the best way to bring the OneMontville message of Acceptance, Respect and Kindness to more members of the community. With the ‘OneMontville Unites’ podcast, people do not have to show up in one particular place on a particular day or time. Instead, people can tune in when it is convenient for them. It is perfect.”
“I think this message will resonate so well in Montville,” Modi Shah said about her work towards helping others embrace empathy. “These are kind people. There is a lot of Montville Pride, which I understand. We come together time and time again.”
Host Scilingo agreed: “Even though you might not know what it is [empathy], we [the Montville Township community] actually do a pretty good job of it. OneMontville is kind of a testament to Montville’s execution of empathy in action.”
“I hope people are interested in being more empathetic,” Modi Shah added, “not just for our community, but for themselves.”
The OneMontville organization has planned something for everyone this fall.
October 9-11 members of the community can reserve an opportunity to watch the movie JUST MERCY for free. Then, on October 14, those with reservations may attend a virtual panel discussion on systemic racism, social injustice and the criminal justice system. Anyone interested should RSVP for this FREE event: bit.ly/onemontville. This event is co-sponsored by the Montville Township Committee and the OneMontville Racial Equality Committee.
From now through October 31, OneMontville is holding a Food Drive for the Montville Kiwanis Food Pantry. Eight locations across the township are collecting non-perishable items. The entire community is asked to help by dropping off food. For a list of drop off locations the community is asked to see OneMontville.org.
“OneMontville Unites – Episode 2” will premiere on Monday, October 19. People can listen to all “OneMontville Unites” podcast episodes at: https://anchor.fm/onemontvilleunites.
Coming in November, the community will be asked to help compile a OneMontville Spotify Playlist.
Also coming up, OneMontville and Montville Township Library will be holding a virtual book club to discuss the book “The War for Kindness” by Jamil Zaki.
Details for both will be announced on the OneMontville.org website.
Founded in September 2015, the mission of OneMontville is to create and promote a climate of acceptance, inclusion and kindness which teaches and celebrates respect for one another by embracing and being enriched by the diversity that comprises the Montville Township Community. The mission can only be fully accomplished through the involvement and commitment of community leaders, religious leaders, business leaders, and residents of all ages, races, religions, ethnicities, abilities, gender identity or sexual orientation.