At Council meeting, residents of NJ township decry Orthodox Jewish families moving into area.
By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner
A council meeting in the township of Jackson, New Jersey held to discuss concerns about Orthodox Jewish families moving into the area heard one woman accuse councilors of showing bias in favor of the new arrivals, to the detriment of established residents.
The woman — who gave her name as Hope and said she had been living in Jackson since 1984 — was animated and angry as she addressed the meeting last Wednesday, breaking down in tears at one point.
For much of this year, Jackson has been locked in a legal battle arising from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal’s civil rights lawsuit against the township. Announced in April, the lawsuit alleged that township officials, including Mayor Michael Reina, discriminated against the Orthodox Jewish community through targeted zoning ordinances and enforcement practices.
The following month US District Judge Michael Shipp granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting Jackson from enforcing its ordinances against the building of religious schools and the installation of an eruv — an enclosure that enables Orthodox Jews to perform certain tasks on shabbat and festivals, such as carrying, that would otherwise be prohibited under Jewish religious law.
At last week’s meeting, those Jackson residents in attendance accused council members of abandoning them amid warnings that an influx of Orthodox Jews would leave existing residents with no choice but to move.
“People are moving out, people are leaving,” Hope told the councilors. “My daughter has no-one to ride a bike with anymore. Do you know how heartbreaking that is for me?”
She claimed that Orthodox Jewish arrivals were an environmental nuisance who had been responsible for an increase in road traffic, noise in residential neighborhoods from group prayer sessions and “lawlessness” in the erection of eruv wires.
Hope also complained about an apparent profusion of trucks from Brooklyn’s Borough Park section, where a large Orthodox Jewish population resides, entering Jackson. “We have Borough Park trucks driving around our neighborhoods that are entering neighborhoods that don’t have any Orthodox living there yet. Why are Borough Parks trucks driving through these neighborhoods? These are the steps, these are the tactics, and people are moving out,” she insisted.
“They walk in the streets and they look at us like, how dare we be pissed off about this? It is so abusive and it’s against all our civil rights,” Hope said of her Jewish neighbors.
She asserted that non-Jewish residents were “sh**ting their pants” every time a house went on sale, because council members had effectively told the Jewish community “that they can do whatever they want.”
“You’re giving us no reason to want to live here anymore,” Hope declared. She began crying as she told councilors, “I don’t want to pull my kids out of school, I don’t want to leave my parents.”
Commenting on Hope’s speech at the council meeting, New Jersey talk show host Judi Franco wrote, “Before you say ‘this isn’t anti-Semitism, this woman just wants to protect her town from change and urban decay,’ ask yourself if in 2021 America you could get away with this public rant against any other group. Ask yourself if you could substitute blacks, Muslims, Asians or any other minority group whose customs differ from your own and have it not be considered hate.”
Orthodox leaders in Jackson estimate that one out of every six residents in the township, with a population of about 60,000 residents, is from the Jewish community. Most of Jackson’s 3,100 school-age Orthodox children attend religious schools in nearby Lakewood, which has a community of over 100,000 Orthodox Jews.