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Bethlehem officials denounce antisemitic comments at city council meeting

Bethlehem City Hall

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem’s mayor and members of the city council denounced antisemitic comments made during a public comment session at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

“I had a couple of reports, but I'll be honest, they were kind of put aside after some of the comments earlier today,” Mayor William Reynolds said at the meeting.

“The vast majority of people in our city are working to create a city where everybody feels welcome and inclusive and valued, no matter what their religion is. And I, we, show up every day to work towards creating that city.”

  • Bethlehem's mayor and city council members denounced antisemitic comments made during a public comment session
  • Two council members walked out after the remarks
  • The comments cast a pall over the remainder of the meeting

During the standard open comment session at the beginning of the meeting, Bethlehem resident and former write-in mayoral candidate Arthur Curatola said that the city should do more to organize around the teachings of Jesus Christ, “even though he was a Jew.”

He made similar remarks during a public comment session in mid-November, which drew a response from council member Hillary Kwiatek at the time, who spoke about her experience as a Jewish member of city council.

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“Especially with the rise of antisemitism that’s been happening,” she said, “to be constantly sort of lectured to about Jesus Christ at a City Council meeting in the United States of America… I just want to remind folks that we are a beautiful, diverse city of people of many faiths, and people of no faith, and people who chose to live their lives in a different way. And so I would just appreciate it if folks were a little bit more sensitive to that.”

This time, Kwiatek walked out of the council chambers part way through Curatola’s speech, followed a few moments later by Dr. Paige Van Wirt.

The comments hung over the rest of the meeting that followed, later drawing comments from council member Rachel Leon as well as the mayor.

“I am a bit shocked at what was said before, but we will remain vigilant in working to create a city where there is no place for hate or the beliefs where it is the feeling of some that certain religions make themselves feel superior to others. And that's probably the only words I can come up with right now,” Reynolds said.

“One of the things I like most about Bethlehem is that no one person owns the story of what Bethlehem is,” Leon said.