Thomas J. Judge, Jr. Helps To Build Bridge Between Immigrants and Upper Darby Government
Upper Darby was a community built in the 1600s through the influx of immigrants settling in the area. Tom Judge and former Mayor Raymond Shay took note of their community’s history of immigrants and brainstormed ways to engage their new community members into feeling welcome.
They recognized the distance between those who immigrated to Upper Darby and the government was because of the distrust they harbored from their home country. That is what prompted the Welcome Center to reach out to newly immigrated residents, and encourage them to get to know Upper Darby’s government. The outreach showed effort and eased some tension between the two parties; thus beginning the first steps to developing a deep connection to the community.
One of the things Judge did was to sell the idea of celebrating language diversity that respects cultural differences and backgrounds to Mayor Thomas Micozzie. Part of his pitch was the replication of the United Nations’ Mother Language Day celebration on February 21st of each year. For Judge, such a celebration was needed to give visibility and bestow respect on the various cultures converging in the township.
Judge described the first celebration as remarkable and heartwarming as he witnessed people sharing their stories of how they immigrated, how they came to the community and made it their home.
It was a grand welcoming and the first of many successful celebrations Judge has helped orchestrate to unite Upper Darby’s mosaic of cultures. The celebration continues annually. In recent years, it moved to Saturday and includes the school district.
Judge’s message emphasized the value of trust between the Township and the people .He said, his office receives different and diverse ideas to ignite dialogue between members of Upper Darby’s government and residents to create understanding of each other. “We have to balance not only government but new ideas and new concept as well,”he noted.
As the various cultures begin to shift, Judge wants everyone to shift too. His advice to non-residents is to visit Upper Darby. “We are open for business. We are a welcoming community. Not only because of the diverse ethnic foods, pleasant atmosphere, and attractions, but visitors can equally experience how various immigrant customs and cultures work so harmoniously in Upper Darby Township. The mayor always says that because of the diversity of the community, he did not have to leave Upper Darby to eat exotic food.”
As the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Judge said there was nothing in particular that prepared him to hold the position. “I was a council member before I took the job. The challenge is being yourself and not allowing issues to overwhelm you. Be kind, live from your heart and do the best for people as you possibly can,” he added.