Chief Vincent Mann is Turtle Clan Chief of he Ramapough Lunaape Nation. The Ramapough are descendants of the Munsee speaking people who once lived from Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania, and from the northern bank of the Raritan River north to Albany N.Y. Somehow, they survived the French and Indian War, and managed to stay in the region protecting their homelands and rights to hunt, to fish, to gather, and to strip bark from trees on this land – as rights reserved in the Treaty of Easton in 1758. They are the Munsee band who "stayed behind," maintaining a presence in northern New Jersey and southern New York for over 11,000 years.
Chief Mann has worked tirelessly to help his community survive and fight back against the Ford Motor Company, which dumped highly toxic paint sludge from the 1960s - ’70s on what is now the Ringwood Mines Superfund Site. He is co-creator of the the United Lunaapeewak to provide educational opportunities across the region about Munsee language, history, and traditions.
Chief Mann is a Trustee of the Highlands Coalition and a former member of the Ringwood Mines Superfund Site’s Citizen Advisory Group (CAG). He recently co-founded the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm with Michaeline Picaro to create local jobs but more importantly to bring back food sovereignty to his Clan. He works with many universities on projects related to his people, including the NYU and Ramapo College Environmental Science programs, the Price Institute at Rutgers Newark, and the Design Program at Rutgers New Brunswick. In 2016 the Russ Berry Foundation awarded Chief Mann their highest honor for his life-long service to the citizens of the Turtle Clan… (See video.)
Rabbi Chuck Diamond, a Pittsburgh native, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1985 and worked as a rabbi at Temple Israel of Great Neck in New York until 1988. He next served as the rabbi of education and youth at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Mich. In 1991, Diamond moved back to Pittsburgh and worked at Congregation Beth Shalom as its assistant rabbi of education and youth for the next 14 years.
In 2005, Diamond left Beth Shalom and founded Congregation Or L’Simcha, in Squirrel Hill, a predominantly Jewish section of Pittsburgh, PA. Soon thereafter, Or L’Simcha moved into the Tree of Life building, sharing space with that congregation. In 2010 Tree of Life and Or L’Simcha merged, and Diamond served as the senior rabbi until June of 2018.
On October 27 of that year a man armed with handguns and an assault rifle, and shouting antisemitic rhetoric killed eleven congregants, and wounded six other people including four police officers. Rabbi Diamond immediately jumped back into action to help his former congregants deal with the aftermath. It was a very difficult time. The active rabbis were officiating the funerals and comforting the mourners. Chuck thus became the unofficial spokesman for the Jewish community.
It was a very difficult time for everyone. In his words, "It seems like one long day. We’ve been going from one funeral to the next, to the next. Today is the last funeral, for Rose Mallinger, 97 years old, a beautiful soul, wonderful person, wouldn’t hurt a fly, very active for 97 years old. Her daughter was with her in shul. She would come every week and be there on time. It was a joy having her as a congregant, to be her rabbi."
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