JACKSON – The Jackson Township Council has condemned religious hate, but its members did not take formal action to put their feelings on the record during a recent meeting.
The issue was addressed following the creation of a Facebook page called Rise Up Ocean County.
The administrators of that page have not identified themselves, but claim “the adverse effects of continued development and growth in Lakewood are being felt by every surrounding community, particularly in Toms River, Brick Township, Howell and Jackson.”
Rise Up Ocean County states that “schools, infrastructure, municipal and school budgets, and municipal, county and state resources are all being pushed to the breaking point.”
Much of the residential development and population increase in Lakewood in recent years has been attributed to the growth of the Orthodox Jewish community in that municipality.
Prior to the council meeting on Feb. 13, a press conference was held in the Jackson municipal building. Michael D. Cohen, director of the Eastern Region for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, condemned the activities of Rise Up Ocean County.
The Rev. John Brambrick of St. Aloysius Church, Jackson, spoke during the press conference and the council meeting and condemned Rise Up Ocean County.
On its Facebook page, Rise Up Ocean County references “an effort to stave off quality of life erosion” and to “return Ocean County to her majestic stature,” and states that “the silent majority must be heard, lest we become the minority.”
State Sen. Robert Singer (R-Monmouth and Ocean) challenged the individuals behind Rise Up Ocean County to step forward.
“Anonymous people, if you are so proud of what you are saying, put your name on it, be proud of it. … I have always believed in one thing. An anti-Semite is always a racist, never kid yourself, and the reverse is the same, a racist is always an anti-Semite. They go hand-in-hand,” Singer said.
“We must speak out against anti-Semitism, we must pass resolutions in communities against anti-Semitism. We cannot accept that. Once you accept it they win and they cannot win,” the senator said.
Township Council President Robert Nixon later thanked the community leaders and faith leaders who were in attendance.
“We share a God, common belief and multiple purpose. Religious hate, bigotry, stereotyping, scapegoating and an us vs. them mentality have no place in Jackson, no place in the United States and no place in the world,” Nixon said.
“For far too long, troublemakers have sought to use social media and blogs to amplify misunderstandings and differences into open public strife. We can have honest discussions and disagreements over policy making in the future, but we cannot support making any person or group a target of scorn,” he said.
“Communication is not yelling, it is not do it my way or else, it is not making assumptions. Communication is a never-ending process of give and take, where hopefully all the participants have an open mind. As a community it should not take (passing) resolutions to bring people together,” Nixon said.
The call for officials to pass a resolution to address the matter arose out of the Lakewood Township Committee’s recent passage of a resolution condemning Rise Up Ocean County.
“The mayor and council members took an oath to defend the Constitution and that includes the right to free speech. At the same time, we do not endorse and are not responsible for the contents of the press and social media,” Nixon said.
“I want to advise any group that makes statements under the protections of their constitutional rights. You need to respect that what you say has consequences that hurt others and when those words lead to fear you need to make it right.
“I am sensitive to what has been discussed here this evening. I would hope the leaders of our churches and synagogues would speak out against that destructive, unacceptable behavior as well and help lead our town down a pathway of respect.
“Only then will there be true mutual communication and cooperation among peoples of different beliefs and we will be successful standing up to anyone who seeks to destroy the peace and harmony of our community. I stand ready to work with you, to bring us together, no matter who tries to tear us apart,” Nixon said.
During public comment, residents of Jackson, Lakewood and Toms River asked the council to pass a resolution and to formally condemn Rise Up Ocean County.
Many people who spoke asked if anyone affiliated with Rise Up Ocean County was present and they demanded that the group’s members identify themselves. Some residents condemned Rise Up Ocean County for remaining anonymous.
No one in the municipal meeting room identified himself or herself as a member of Rise Up Ocean County.