JACKSON, NJ (VINNews) — In his excellent book entitled, “Benign Bigotry,” author Kristin J. Anderson skillfully relates a number of myths to real world events and prejudies. He explains how errors in individual thinking can affect society in general, and suggests various strategies for reducing prejudice in daily life.
Perhaps nowhere is his advice more applicable than in Jackson, New Jersey. Almost everyone in Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish community is aware of Dr. Rich Robert’s letter to the mayor of Jackson, Mayor Reina, – in which he lists all their discriminatory practices and policies. Dr. Robert’s letter gave a “loose” ultimatum which technically expired yesterday. If Jackson’s leadership doesn’t do an about face – Dr. Roberts will launch a campaign that highlights the bigoted behaviors.
The editorial said that Dr. Roberts certainly has the capability to make good on it. The Op-Ed urged the leadership to sit down with interested parties and try to reach a compromise.
Agudath Israel of America has filed legal challenges in court and the APP Op-Ed stated that, “If the litigation moves forward, Jackson is almost certain to lose. The only winners will be the attorneys billing Jackson’s taxpayers.”
Thus far, there has not been a response to the letter.
Below is the January 14th letter.
Dear Mayor Reina,
As you know, there is a lawsuit against you and Jackson Township claiming, with significant supporting documentation, that you have been using the instruments of Jackson Township government to discourage Orthodox Jews from living in Jackson. The suit also claims that this conduct is part of a larger effort to interfere with our community’s religious practices or growth in Jackson.
Between the lawsuit and various news stories, I am persuaded that you have overseen, participated in, or spearheaded the following:
- Jackson Township Surveillance of Orthodox Jews Praying in Homes
Jackson Township conducted surveillance or harassment of Orthodox Jews on suspicion that they might be praying in their homes; including counting Jews on the street, staking out several blocks when Orthodox Jews would pray in homes to welcome the Sabbath on Friday evenings, looking into home windows, walking onto residential property to determine if Jews were praying in a backyard pool house, videotaping Jews who might be meeting to pray, checking license plates of Jews who might be meeting to pray, using a cell phone app of Orthodox Jewish praying times to schedule your surveillance to stakeout multiple residential blocks to catch going into homes to pray, and other similar Township activities. These activities were confirmed by Jackson Township emails that were publicly released.
Your Jackson Township Business Administrator confirmed in an email that your actions against Orthodox Jews living in Jackson were a higher priority than your dealing with heroin houses and other life-threatening issues.
- New Jackson Township Ordinance to Block Orthodox Jewish Schools
Corresponding with an influx of Orthodox Jews, Jackson Township passed an ordinance to hinder the opening of Orthodox Jewish schools. The previous ordinance allowed public or nonprofit parochial schools in seven township zones. With the influx of Orthodox Jews, Jackson blocked these zones to schools only leaving the environmental-regulatory-protected Pinelands for Orthodox Jewish school development.
III. New Jackson Township Ordinance to Block Orthodox Jewish School Dormitories
Corresponding with an influx of Orthodox Jews, Jackson Township passed and ordinance completely banning the opening of school dormitories in all of Jackson Township. This ordinance appears obviously designed to create hardship for Orthodox Jews whose children frequently live in such school dormitories close to their families and it appear intended to keep Orthodox Jews out of Jackson.
- New Jackson Township Barriers Restricting the Sabbath Mobility of Orthodox Jewish Mothers with Baby Carriages and Wheel Chair Bound Orthodox Jews
Corresponding with an influx of Orthodox Jews, Jackson Township acted with duplicity by appearing to entertain Orthodox Jewish residents’ inquiries on Eruv’s, which Jackson Township emails show were code-complaint, while quickly passing a new ordinance to outlaw them. The result of the new ordinance was to prevent Orthodox Jews from erecting Eruv’s (thereby preventing Orthodox Jews who are wheel chair bound or mothers with babies from going outside on the Jewish Sabbath), when that right-of-way was freely and commonly used by Jackson residents for the previous 174 years.
- Jackson Township Submitted a False Anti-blockbusting Claim to the DOJ against Orthodox Jews, Completely Opposite to the Facts, which was Dismissed by the DOJ
Blockbusting was a practice in the 1960’s and 1970’s to drive white homeowners to sell their homes at drastically reduced prices as they field the initial racial integration of their neighborhoods. It is widely established that when Orthodox Jews move into a neighborhood then house prices rise quickly. Jackson Township officials know that house prices in areas of Jackson where Orthodox Jews have moved have risen substantially, which is the opposite of blockbusting. Yet Jackson asked the NJ Attorney General and the DOJ to investigate blockbusting by Orthodox Jews in Jackson.
Lastly, I have been told that all of the original members of Jackson Strong, a group dedicated to not selling to Orthodox Jews and who placed “Jackson Strong” signs on their lawns, have sold their homes to Orthodox Jews thereby enjoying the Orthodox Jewish driven appreciation in their home values and undermining the factual claim typically underlying any complaint of blockbusting.
- Multiple Member of the Jackson Township Zoning or Planning Boards, and the Jackson Township Council President, resigned after being exposed for anti-Orthodox Jewish discrimination in trying to block Orthodox Jewish religious life in Jackson or conspiring to block Orthodox Jewish housing development in Jackson
VII. A Publicly Released Audio Recording and Testimony Under Penalty Of Perjury Claimed To Expose You, Mayor Reina, Saying That You Would Not Be Doing This If the Issue Was Churches and Nor Synagogues
Do you deny that it is your voice on the tape? If it is your voice, have you ever repudiated those remarks? If it is not you, what actions have you taken to correct the public record?
VIII. There are Multiple News Articles Documenting Sworn Court Statements from Current and Former Jackson Township Members Attesting to Your Anti-Semitism or Anti-Orthodox Jewish Motivations
Do you deny the accuracy of these articles?
If I have misstated any fact(s) in the above presentation, then I respectfully request that you reply to me both by email and publicly. I will correct them if I’m in error or provide more facts supporting them. For brevity, I have excluded a “mountain” of corroborating evidence but that evidence I already known to you.
I want to know that Orthodox Jews believe strongly that repentance requires undoing any wrong that was in addition to committing to not doing it again. If you demonstrate that the accusations against you are false, or you reverse the discriminatory acts and commit to not allow new ones in the future, then I will defend you in the Orthodox Jewish community and I believe that the Orthodox community will again support you. Please reply using my topic-numbering system so that we can keep these issues clear and not obscure anything. But please don’t reply with a statement that you are against anti-Semitism or anti-Orthodox Jewish bigotry. We are well past that.
Also, if you reverse the above Jackson Township bigoted ordinance, and commit to cease inappropriate surveillance and harassment, then I will stand-down. Since Jackson passed the school and dormitory ban in ten days, I will wait two weeks. In the interim, I will be working to ready the following ways of shinning a national spotlight on the atrocious actions reportedly committed by some members of Jackson Township’s government:
- National News Media;
- National Minority Civil Rights Groups;
- National Anti-Bigotry Social Media Thought Leaders;
- U.S. Senators and Congressmen making public statements; and
- Further national Republican Party actions.
Mayor Reina, I hope there is a way to avoid having to focus national attention on Jackson. As you know, once the news media or outside groups get their teeth into an issue, they seldom let go, and every act they take might develop its own momentum on its own timeline. I beg you, please, to fix the wrongs of the Jackson Township government. The use of the power of government to discriminate against and trample a particular religious expression must not be allowed to stand. This is not who we are as Americans.
I know that many Jackson residents do not believe in bigotry. I have heard great feedback from Orthodox Jews living in Jackson regarding the friendliness of their non-Jewish neighbors and vice versa. Orthodox Jews should be great neighbors. In our neighborhood in Lakewood, an elderly Christian woman was asked why she didn’t take the highly elevated price she was offered for her home, which rose sharply when Orthodox Jews moved into this area. She said “If I move, who will take care of me?” Her Orthodox Jewish neighbors looked after her every day, took in her garbage cans, their children brought her cookies and shoveled snow from her walkway (all for free), and she knew that she was in a safe environment.
Please reverse course and correct and wrongs.
Richard H. Roberts, M.D., Ph.D.