Lakewood, NJ – When Jackson Township Council President Ken Bressi proposed a township wide ban on dormitories in his town, it was clear to everyone what the goal of that ordinance was and who the targets were.
In nearby Lakewood Township, home to Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the world’s largest Orthodox Jewish Yeshivas, most Jewish students live in dormitories, but some, in makeshift dormitories, sometimes in homes located in residential areas of the township. Even though Jackson Township’s border is nearly 5 miles from the BMG campus, out of the required walking distance of the university, the township proposed the ban on dormitories.
These dormitories became a local spotlight in January when a fire at a makeshift Lakewood dormitory displaced 50 students.
Many in Jackson’s Orthodox community felt the ban on dormitories was a moot point since none currently exist and the likelihood of Yeshiva dormitories in the town is very low. They felt the proposed law was simply another ordinance targeting members of their faith unfairly.
In the past, members of Jackson’s Orthodox community had approached the township council to offer advice and feedback, to work together to craft sensible ordinances that would help maintain the quality of life in town in a manner that would not be seen as a continued crackdown against members of their faith. Those community leaders said their offer to support the council’s effort to maintain quality of life standards were flatly rejected.
On Tuesday night, as the township council was poised to pass the ordinance, an obvious effort to curb the growth and migration of the growing Orthodox Jewish population, they were met with with an audience of nearly two hundred Orthodox Jewish men who came to protest the action.
Upon seeing the large gathered crowd, the council quickly suspended their regular public business meeting and entered a private executive session, a rare action for the 5 member all-Republican board.
After a few minutes, the council returned to the public meeting and announced it would not be voting on the ordinance and it needed further legal and zoning board review, admitting flaws in the manner in which the ordinance was proposed, reviewed and introduced.