When Mohammed Hameeduddin was elected Mayor of Teaneck last July, he became the first Muslim mayor in Bergen County history. He won that seat by edging out Deputy Mayor Lizette Parker, who had hoped to make similar history by becoming the township’s first female African-American mayor.
The election, in which Hameeduddin gained the majority vote of his colleagues on the Township Council, underscores a striking attribute of Teaneck: its diversity. According to the Census Bureau’s most recent estimates, Teaneck— with a population of nearly 41,000 — is about 52 percent white, 30 percent black, and 10 percent Asian, with other races making up the remainder. Residents proudly point to the fact that in the 1960s, Teaneck was the first township in the nation to voluntarily integrate its schools.
But its diversity goes beyond the numbers. The Jewish community encompasses some 40 percent of Teaneck’s population, a fact clearly seen on Saturdays and Jewish holidays, when those residents forsake automobiles and take to the sidewalks to travel to religious services. Four schools attended by Jewish students and a high school serving Muslim students join the public school system in educating the township’s youth. The ancestral backgrounds of Teaneck residents include Italian, German, Russian, Irish, Polish, and West Indian.
After his election, Hameeduddin said, “In Teaneck, New Jersey, my religion never played a factor in people voting for me or against me. That is a testament to the town that we live in.”
With roots spreading back to a Dutch settlement of the 17th and 18th centuries, Teaneck’s earliest farmhouses were built near an old Indian trail running along the west bank of the Hackensack River. Caught in the midst of the Revolutionary War — during which both British and American troops occupied local homes — Teaneck residents witnessed Gen. George Washington's famous withdrawal of his colonial forces from nearby Fort Lee on the Hudson River. After the war, the community returned to a peaceful farm life, providing produce for markets in Paterson and New York City.