Jackson, NJ Board Members Resign After Allegations of Religion-Based Zoning Rulings

LAKEWOOD –

Three members of Jackson Township boards dealing with development have tendered their resignations, following the release of recordings of their attendance at a meeting aimed at stopping the construction of a housing project geared towards Orthodox Jews.

Controversy began after an anonymous leak to local officials and media surfaced that Richard Egan, who was a member of Jackson’s Planning Board, and Sheldon Hofstein and Joseph Sullivan who served on its Zoning Board, were present at what was labeled as the town’s inaugural CUPON meeting. CUPON (Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods) has been active in New York’s Rockland County for some time, largely focusing on efforts to oppose the growth of the Orthodox community there.

The meeting was held two weeks ago at Jackson’s Miller Road Fire House and was reportedly attended by some 28 residents. Included on its written agenda was discussion of an upcoming Planning Board application for Jackson Trails, a development for more than 460 homes and a shul in an area of the town near the border with Manchester Township, far from the area of Jackson that borders Lakewood, and which is already home to several hundred Orthodox families.

Very brief clips of a recording of the meeting, released through the Lakewood Scoop, feature the three men acknowledging that their presence at the gathering must be kept secret.

“We’re not supposed to be here,” Mr. Hofstein said. “Nobody saw us.”

“We didn’t sign in, we’re neutral like invisible,” said Mr. Egan.

“We weren’t here,” said Mr. Sullivan.

A source who has listened to the entire audio recording but requested anonymity, told Hamodia that all three took an active part in conversations strategizing to block Jackson Trails’ application.

The planning meeting held four days later was attended by some 175 residents. Just before it commenced, Gregory McGuckin, who serves as an attorney for Jackson as well as being its assemblyman, approached Mr. Egan and asked that he recuse himself from taking part in the meeting.

Presumably under pressure from town officials that their continued participation would throw a further pall over the town’s zoning and planning decisions, Mr. Egan and Mr. Sullivan submitted their resignations this past Friday, and Mr. Hofstein added his on Monday.

Robert Nixon, who serves as president of Jackson’s Town Council told Hamodia that he welcomed the resignations.

“Council was surprised and disappointed at the allegations made recently against members of our Planning and Zoning Boards and we support their decision to step down,” he said. “The focus of the Zoning and Planning Boards have always been, and must only be, on the law governing land use and Jackson’s Master Plan.”

Zoning Board appointments are made by the town council, and those to the Planning Board are made by the town’s Mayor, Michael Reina.

Jackson has struggled to keep its town boards staffed in recent years, following a series of scandals. Robert Burrows, a former Zoning Board member, has been the author of several online anti-Semitic tirades. In 2017, Larry Schuster was forced to resign after anti-Semitic and other offensive comments he made online were discovered, only weeks after Anthony Marano was forced from the board over an arrest for possession of illicit materials and resisting arrest.

At the time, members of the council called for more rigorous background checks to be made before admitting applicants to serve on town boards.

The recent resignations could complicate Jackson’s ongoing legal woes as well. In 2017, the town was sued by the Agudath Israel of America, which claimed that ordinances that banned the construction of new schools and eruvinwere motivated by bias against the Orthodox community.

Officials had entered into arbitration, but negotiations stalled and a trove of emails revealed by a FOIL request between the mayor and council members seemed to reveal that talks were little more than a stalling tactic. The cases are currently moving forward.

Prior to the Agudah’s action, Jackson had been sued by Oros Bais Yaakov over the township’s denial of its application to build.

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48 thoughts on “Jackson, NJ Board Members Resign After Allegations of Religion-Based Zoning Rulings

  1. Rabbi –

    This is a late reply, but I would like to give you my heartfelt thanks for your candid replies and dialogue.
    It helped me immensely.

    Thank you!

    • I’m delighted I’be been of some help. Let me add one more point if I may – The Orthodox community provides volunteer services that have a positive affect upon ALL residents of their area. Free ambulance service, free soup kitchen, are but two examples. In addition they provide medical equipment, wheel chairs etc., second hand clothing, assistance with weddings – bridle dresses etc., kosher food in hospitals, aid in finding rehab programs, no-interest short term loans – I could go on and on. The idea of helping ones neighbor is very much alive in this community and I personally am quite proud of this fact. PLEASE spread the word, there is no INVASION. G-d fearing, Bible believing neighbors are moving into various areas for the SAME reasons you did. They live moral, ethical lives with a strong sense of charity and respect for all. Not a bad deal. As I wrote no gangs, no violent criminality, no narcotics.

  2. Rabbi Lefkowitz writes eloquently and makes very good points -up to a point.

    When the reason for the insularity in the first place is for a higher spiritual calling…then the community is understandably held to a HIGHER standard. The communities you mentioned (African American, Latino. LGBT etc.) don’t advertise themselves as ‘holier than thou’. The ultra orthodox communities you describe, do.
    Comparison with the Amish community would be a better comparison but the Amish have famously avoided public assistance. This is huge. So when a community advertises itself as holier than others and uses that as an excuse to create insular enclaves while simultaneously availing themselves of taxpayer funding they can expect taxpayer scrutiny (and resentment).

      • That gets interesting… I’m not sure about the numbers of ultra-Orthodox in the US military. In the Israeli military they are dodging the draft. So, that’s a bit of a sticky subject and hair-splitting.

        • History bears out that Orthodox and Hasidic Jews served valiantly in America’s declared wars. Check it out yourself. Israel is an enitrely different issue. As you may know, the number of Ultra-Orthodox, Hasidim etc. has been gowoing steadily year by year with the support of their Rabbis and Rebbes. The religious zionist movement has long been committed to religious service in the Israeli military.

  3. Lakewood Reverberations — The Art of Saying Hello

    THE TIMES OF ISRAEL – JUL 13, 2017, 10:14 AM
    The recent scandal in Lakewood New Jersey involving a number of Orthodox families, including a Rabbi who carries the name of his illustrious forebearer, the Lutzker Rav, has attracted national news. The accused are charged with defrauding a number of government programs crafted to help families in grave financial difficulty. We, their neighbors in communities adjoining Lakewood, are feeling the negative reverberations of these alleged crimes. Yet negative attitudes toward the influx of Orthodox Jews to Jackson, Toms River and other nearby communities began much before this tragic event.
    A chance review of a website dedicated to comments regarding the local Walmart in the Lakewood area reveals that the most prominent complaint is not about the service or the facility itself. It rather concerns the nature of the customers, those from Lakewood (Orthodox Jews). They are generally described as discourteous, pushing and shoving other customers whenever it suits their needs. Indeed, when my son first went shopping for our family in Lakewood, the cashier stated, in an ever so matter of fact manner, in spite of his yarmulke and tzitzis clearly exposed, “You aren’t an Orthodox Jew, are you?” The question was placed to him because he used words such as please and thank you and engaged her in casual, cordial conversation. When he responded that I am Orthodox, she replied, “But you don’t act like the others. You are courteous and respectful.”
    There is a well-known story circulated in the yeshiva world regarding American Jewry’s 20th century Posek, the Gaon, HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. On the weekly occasions when he visited the Staten Island Yeshiva, where his son Rav Reuven is Rosh HaYeshiva, to give a Shiur to the Talmidim, he would often eat lunch prior to traveling back to the Lower East side of New York. On one occasion when he and his driver had already left the yeshiva and were well on their way back to New York, he asked the driver to return to the Yeshiva. Upon arrival, Reb Moshe made his way to the kitchen and in his cordial and sweet manner thanked the cook (A non-Jew) for a delicious lunch. This was his custom on every occasion he ate at the Yeshiva. For whatever reason, he had forgotten to offer his thanks on this particular occasion and felt it so important to do so, that he had returned to the Yeshiva. What motivated Reb Moshe to take this step? Perhaps it was based upon the dictum taught by Shammai in Perek, “Greet every person with a cheerful face.”
    The lack of a “cheerful face” on the part of all too many Orthodox Jews in Lakewood over the years, has created the impression among their non-Jewish and even Jewish neighbors, that they look down upon those who are not Orthodox observant and do not wish to have any relationship with them. Over the years, this coldness to their neighbors, has created a negative atmosphere in which any disagreement, or even minor misunderstanding, can be inflamed into a major controversy.
    Imagine my surprise when I moved into a 55+ senior community in Jackson only to find that I was clearly not wanted there by my neighbors. I was astounded all the more so by this sentiment as the majority of seniors living in the community were either Jewish or Italian, a good many of them hailing from New York City. As I was raised in an Italian-Jewish community in Brooklyn Bensonhurst, I can attest to the observation by the comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, “Jews and Italians – same corporation different division.” Their clear negativity toward my family and I was based upon my being Orthodox and as one person put it, “They see you as the tip of the spear of the invasion of the Lakewood Orthodox into our otherwise tranquil community.” This occurred about a year ago, just after Rabbi Lefkowitz of Agudah fame, made his much misinterpreted statement that Jews suffering the overcrowding and cost prohibitive real estate in communities like Boro Park, Monsey and Lakewood, should become “a shtikle pioneer” and move to nearby communities such as, in the case of Lakewood, Jackson and Toms River. So desperate were my neighbors to keep out the Orthodox from our 55+ community, that when the bylaws were being reviewed, they were modified in an attempt to discourage Orthodox seniors from considering purchasing homes. The vote in favor of this alteration was about 85% of the community. So that you may better understand the situation, I share with you a letter I wrote to the Board of Trustees prior to that vote.
    “I understand the following amendment to Westlake’s rules will be voted upon at a meeting to be held on June 13th at 9 A.M. at the Clubhouse.
    “Shall article 1 be amended to include a new section 1.37 as follows.
    1.37 (New) “Residential purposes” shall be used solely as a place to live. Holding or conducting regular meetings, presentations Assemblies or other gatherings to which members of the public are invited, shall not constitute a residential purpose and are prohibited. For purposes of this restriction “members of the public” shall mean individuals other than personal friends and members of a resident’s family.”
    The Constitution’s First Amendment contains limits on government interference with very well-known unalienable rights: religion, speech and press. The First Amendment specifically restricts government interference with an activity necessary to exercise the first three named rights: the need for people to gather to practice religion, to talk about issues and to distribute information. The right of the people1 to peaceful assembly is protected as follows:
    “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble …”
    I am by this letter formally protesting the above change to Westlake’s by laws as it violates the basic right of the American citizen to peaceful assembly.
    Westlake has been functioning for more than a decade. Mere houses have become homes replete with furnishings and activities reflecting the unique attitudes of their owners. Not only is this suggested change in violation of the American Constitution, it represents an attack upon well-established activities already held and accepted in individual homes in Westlake. Although a recent arrival to Westlake, I can list several such activities held in individuals’ homes this rule would immediately curtail.
    *the regular recitation of the Rosary
    *regular sessions of Bible study
    *gatherings for Egalitarian Conservative Jewish prayer meetings to allow a mourner to recite the Kaddish prayer for a loved one
    *regular gatherings for Christian prayer meetings
    *gatherings to discuss various and sundry topics of interest to the residents
    *gatherings to support causes considered important to the individual home owner
    I am confident that by making formal inquiry I could increase and detail this list appreciably. It is apparent to me that those who propose such rules believe that Housing Associations can obviate at will the fundamental rights guaranteed to the American citizen by the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights simply by a majority vote. How terribly sad that there are individuals today who wish to limit the very rights the American Revolution was fought to protect.
    Westlake is not an island state unto itself. Its very existence is premised upon the laws of this great nation which it must respect and obey. Given the negative responses to the influx of Observant Jews, or as some would have it, the “Orthodox” and the fact that activities have developed in Westlake for years that would now be outlawed by this amendment, one can assume that this is yet another not so veiled attempt at making life for an observant Jew uncomfortable in our community. As there is no Synagogue in Jackson, observant Jews gather in various homes to fulfill the religious requirement of praying in a quorum, a minimum of ten men which is known and respected even by the Jackson Township as legal prayer meetings in spite of other questionable actions the Township has taken to curtail or at the very least, limit, the influx of observant, law abiding and productive Jewish citizens to Jackson. As such as other observant Jews purchase homes in Westlake, I am confident they too will want to gather in prayer on a regular basis in individual homes as Christian residents already do and is their right in accord with the American foundational concepts of free exercise of religion and public assembly
    For your edification I have included a copy of an address I gave several years ago on the topic of religious freedom before the leadership of the state wide interfaith organization of Illinois – Reclaiming Religious Liberty.
    I urge you to remove this proposal from the ballot.”
    This situation in communities such as Jackson is becoming ever more acute as the influx of young Orthodox Jewish families to the community grows day by day. Is it possible this horrible situation could have been avoided or ameliorated simply by those who came before us, utilizing the dictum of Shammai, “Greet every person with a cheerful face?” I believe the answer to this question is a resounding YES.

    • Rabbi – I thank you for taking the time to write your in depth replies. It has helped me greatly to clear up some misconceptions and misperceptions I have had towards the Orthodox community. I know there is much more I need to learn and clear up so I can have greater understanding and sensitivity towards your community. I apologize again if I may have written anything that was deemed disrespectful.

      As I said before, I am sorry for what you had to endure in Westlake. You explained in detail how the HOA treated you and your family so as to discourage Orthodox Jews from moving in. You have also explained further what young Orthodox families moving to Jackson have to deal with. I really truly did not know the depth and extent to how Jackson township and its residents have been towards the Orthodox. I thought most of it was centered around the building of Orthodox shuls, private schools and high density housing. I did not know what was going on at the neighborhood level.

      Rabbi – I am truly speechless at the behavior of Jackson Township, but as an Indian American whose family and herself has experienced discrimination, I have a little understanding why the Orthodox chose to remain insular.

    • Reclaiming Religious Liberty – the Most Cherished American Freedom
      Guest Blogger: Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

      “Reclaiming Religious Liberty the Most Cherished American Freedom”
      An address by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz,
      Spiritual Leader of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation & founding Chairman of the Legislative Commission of the Chicago Rabbinical Council
      Delivered at Halas Hall, Lake Forest, Illinois, October 14, 2012

      The First Amendment to our Constitution, in a heretofore-unprecedented statement, restricts the government from placing limits upon any religious practice or establishing a specific religion. Yet, in his farewell address to the nation, Pres. George Washington advises:

      “Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.” He continues “… And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

      Considering the revolutionary period, it is a bit odd that George Washington, the gentleman from Virginia, the General who led our forces to victory, who occupied the famed chair of the rising sun during the deliberations of the Continental Congress, as Benjamin Franklin noted, symbolic of the very birth of our nation, presents us with the seeming paradox of our country’s unique principle foundation. While stressing the pivotal importance of religion in determining morality, he, as our other founding fathers, elected to create a society in which the government and the church are separate with the law protecting the church or more appropriately, the free expression of all religious denominations, from any interference by the government.

      How did Washington understand this unique approach was to function? If religion is indispensable, how was it to affect our society, and the manner in which we govern ourselves?

      May I suggest that it was understood by our first President, and indeed by all our founding fathers, that the principles by which our society would function both in terms of the daily interpersonal relationships of its citizens and the enactment of law by its government, would be based upon what we commonly refer to as the Judeo-Christian ethic, the shared moral values of Judaism and Christianity.

      It is for us then to determine what exactly this cornerstone of society, this Judeo-Christian ethic actually means. May I, as a Rabbi, offer some understanding of it in terms of my Jewish tradition.

      Unlike Christianity, which seeks its moral and ethical guidance through the concept of agape, love, as evidenced by G-d to man, and as expressed in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, Judaism sees its morality in the law. The first five books of the Old Testament contain 613 specific G-d ordained commandments. Expressed both in the positive and the negative, they constitute the rules and regulations by which a society must function and, in turn, its morality. Indeed they encompass the entire spectrum of human endeavor. In administering these laws, this Jewish morality, our judges, our rabbis, are instructed that, in situations where a specific law is not clearly found, they must go beyond the letter of the law, “doing what is right in the eyes of the L-rd” Deuteronomy 13:18, extrapolating from the law the moral direction required to deal with the situation placed before them. It is these laws, the laws found in the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, to which our founding fathers referred when developing our Constitution.

      To highlight this point – It is clear from the Torah that, in administering justice, the individual whose actions are to be judged is considered innocent until proven guilty. It is the task of the prosecutor to bring forward the evidence necessary to convict the individual. One can postulate that this principle is premised upon the fact that G-d is our Creator and therefore our true judge, and only out of necessity is man allowed to stand in judgment over his fellow.

      Considering the basis of British Common law, the law that was in force in the colonies prior to the Revolution, this foundational principle of American jurisprudence is a major departure. Rooted in the Divine right of kings to rule over their subjects, British law accuses an individual of wrongdoing. It falls to the individual to prove his innocence. Rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic, American law charges an individual with wrongdoing. It falls to the State to prove the guilt of the individual beyond a reasonable doubt.

      America’s own history tragically bears witness to the suffering experienced when our society ignores these definitive moral guideposts. Our collective Judeo-Christian heritage makes abundantly clear that a touchstone of a moral society, a G-dly society, which walks in the paths of righteousness, is that compassionate society, which cares for the poor and the afflicted. It is this compassion that creates the human being out of a mere homo-sapien.

      Yet, in 1927, a case was brought before the United States Supreme Court known as Buck versus Bell. The case dealt with a woman by the name of Carrie Buck, who was determined unfit to reproduce because she was considered to be retarded. She had been placed in the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, where she was convinced to undergo a form of tubule ligation.

      That determination of retardation was made by Harry Laughlin of the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Springs Harbor, New York, then the premier institution in the United States in the field of eugenics. Laughlin never met Carrie Buck, basing his decision largely upon the statement of a nurse who said the following regarding the Buck family. “These people belong to the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of antisocial whites of the South.”

      Laughlin determined that sterilization would be “a force for the mitigation of race degeneracy.”

      Basing his ruling on a Massachusetts law mandating vaccination for public school children. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, an icon of the liberal and progressive movements in the United States, wrote the following in his one-page ruling, “the principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the fallopian tubes. It. is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

      The only Justice dissenting from this opinion was Justice Pierce Butler, a Catholic, following the then common practice of the court not to write dissenting opinions. In a time when eugenics was considered all the rage in the United States, it was the Catholic Church, which stood in opposition to this godless approach to human life. It is important to note that the Supreme Court never formally rejected the fundamental principle in Buck versus Bell, generally referred to as negative eugenics, removing, in this instance, sterilizing “undesirable” individuals in society, much as one thins out weak cattle from the herd. The ultimate goal is the same – to create a super human being – the perfect American human specimen.

      There comes to mind, the hellish spectre of a decrepit Hitler, slowly rising from his exalted seat in the pit of eternal damnation, with a confident smile of victory upon his face, raising his hand in the Nazi salute, mustering his last ounce of strength and shouting: “Ach meine kinder, meine kinder – Amerika über alles!”

      President Washington, the proverbial Biblical Prophet, exorts us to be ever on the alert, ever vigilant, warning, “that no national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” We must be ready to do battle in defense of this fundamental underpinning of American society, taking on those who would distort, and thereby weaken, the Judeo-Christian ethic, the very basis of this magnificent experiment in governance we call, the United States of America. The concept of religious freedom encapsulated in the first amendment to our Constitution defines our society. The very future of the United States depends upon it.

  4. Lakewood Reverberations — The Art of Saying Hello

    THE TIMES OF ISRAEL – JUL 13, 2017, 10:14 AM
    The recent scandal in Lakewood New Jersey involving a number of Orthodox families, including a Rabbi who carries the name of his illustrious forebearer, the Lutzker Rav, has attracted national news. The accused are charged with defrauding a number of government programs crafted to help families in grave financial difficulty. We, their neighbors in communities adjoining Lakewood, are feeling the negative reverberations of these alleged crimes. Yet negative attitudes toward the influx of Orthodox Jews to Jackson, Toms River and other nearby communities began much before this tragic event.
    A chance review of a website dedicated to comments regarding the local Walmart in the Lakewood area reveals that the most prominent complaint is not about the service or the facility itself. It rather concerns the nature of the customers, those from Lakewood (Orthodox Jews). They are generally described as discourteous, pushing and shoving other customers whenever it suits their needs. Indeed, when my son first went shopping for our family in Lakewood, the cashier stated, in an ever so matter of fact manner, in spite of his yarmulke and tzitzis clearly exposed, “You aren’t an Orthodox Jew, are you?” The question was placed to him because he used words such as please and thank you and engaged her in casual, cordial conversation. When he responded that I am Orthodox, she replied, “But you don’t act like the others. You are courteous and respectful.”
    There is a well-known story circulated in the yeshiva world regarding American Jewry’s 20th century Posek, the Gaon, HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. On the weekly occasions when he visited the Staten Island Yeshiva, where his son Rav Reuven is Rosh HaYeshiva, to give a Shiur to the Talmidim, he would often eat lunch prior to traveling back to the Lower East side of New York. On one occasion when he and his driver had already left the yeshiva and were well on their way back to New York, he asked the driver to return to the Yeshiva. Upon arrival, Reb Moshe made his way to the kitchen and in his cordial and sweet manner thanked the cook (A non-Jew) for a delicious lunch. This was his custom on every occasion he ate at the Yeshiva. For whatever reason, he had forgotten to offer his thanks on this particular occasion and felt it so important to do so, that he had returned to the Yeshiva. What motivated Reb Moshe to take this step? Perhaps it was based upon the dictum taught by Shammai in Perek, “Greet every person with a cheerful face.”
    The lack of a “cheerful face” on the part of all too many Orthodox Jews in Lakewood over the years, has created the impression among their non-Jewish and even Jewish neighbors, that they look down upon those who are not Orthodox observant and do not wish to have any relationship with them. Over the years, this coldness to their neighbors, has created a negative atmosphere in which any disagreement, or even minor misunderstanding, can be inflamed into a major controversy.
    Imagine my surprise when I moved into a 55+ senior community in Jackson only to find that I was clearly not wanted there by my neighbors. I was astounded all the more so by this sentiment as the majority of seniors living in the community were either Jewish or Italian, a good many of them hailing from New York City. As I was raised in an Italian-Jewish community in Brooklyn Bensonhurst, I can attest to the observation by the comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, “Jews and Italians – same corporation different division.” Their clear negativity toward my family and I was based upon my being Orthodox and as one person put it, “They see you as the tip of the spear of the invasion of the Lakewood Orthodox into our otherwise tranquil community.” This occurred about a year ago, just after Rabbi Lefkowitz of Agudah fame, made his much misinterpreted statement that Jews suffering the overcrowding and cost prohibitive real estate in communities like Boro Park, Monsey and Lakewood, should become “a shtikle pioneer” and move to nearby communities such as, in the case of Lakewood, Jackson and Toms River. So desperate were my neighbors to keep out the Orthodox from our 55+ community, that when the bylaws were being reviewed, they were modified in an attempt to discourage Orthodox seniors from considering purchasing homes. The vote in favor of this alteration was about 85% of the community. So that you may better understand the situation, I share with you a letter I wrote to the Board of Trustees prior to that vote.
    “I understand the following amendment to Westlake’s rules will be voted upon at a meeting to be held on June 13th at 9 A.M. at the Clubhouse.
    “Shall article 1 be amended to include a new section 1.37 as follows.
    1.37 (New) “Residential purposes” shall be used solely as a place to live. Holding or conducting regular meetings, presentations Assemblies or other gatherings to which members of the public are invited, shall not constitute a residential purpose and are prohibited. For purposes of this restriction “members of the public” shall mean individuals other than personal friends and members of a resident’s family.”
    The Constitution’s First Amendment contains limits on government interference with very well-known unalienable rights: religion, speech and press. The First Amendment specifically restricts government interference with an activity necessary to exercise the first three named rights: the need for people to gather to practice religion, to talk about issues and to distribute information. The right of the people1 to peaceful assembly is protected as follows:
    “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble …”
    I am by this letter formally protesting the above change to Westlake’s by laws as it violates the basic right of the American citizen to peaceful assembly.
    Westlake has been functioning for more than a decade. Mere houses have become homes replete with furnishings and activities reflecting the unique attitudes of their owners. Not only is this suggested change in violation of the American Constitution, it represents an attack upon well-established activities already held and accepted in individual homes in Westlake. Although a recent arrival to Westlake, I can list several such activities held in individuals’ homes this rule would immediately curtail.
    *the regular recitation of the Rosary
    *regular sessions of Bible study
    *gatherings for Egalitarian Conservative Jewish prayer meetings to allow a mourner to recite the Kaddish prayer for a loved one
    *regular gatherings for Christian prayer meetings
    *gatherings to discuss various and sundry topics of interest to the residents
    *gatherings to support causes considered important to the individual home owner
    I am confident that by making formal inquiry I could increase and detail this list appreciably. It is apparent to me that those who propose such rules believe that Housing Associations can obviate at will the fundamental rights guaranteed to the American citizen by the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights simply by a majority vote. How terribly sad that there are individuals today who wish to limit the very rights the American Revolution was fought to protect.
    Westlake is not an island state unto itself. Its very existence is premised upon the laws of this great nation which it must respect and obey. Given the negative responses to the influx of Observant Jews, or as some would have it, the “Orthodox” and the fact that activities have developed in Westlake for years that would now be outlawed by this amendment, one can assume that this is yet another not so veiled attempt at making life for an observant Jew uncomfortable in our community. As there is no Synagogue in Jackson, observant Jews gather in various homes to fulfill the religious requirement of praying in a quorum, a minimum of ten men which is known and respected even by the Jackson Township as legal prayer meetings in spite of other questionable actions the Township has taken to curtail or at the very least, limit, the influx of observant, law abiding and productive Jewish citizens to Jackson. As such as other observant Jews purchase homes in Westlake, I am confident they too will want to gather in prayer on a regular basis in individual homes as Christian residents already do and is their right in accord with the American foundational concepts of free exercise of religion and public assembly
    For your edification I have included a copy of an address I gave several years ago on the topic of religious freedom before the leadership of the state wide interfaith organization of Illinois – Reclaiming Religious Liberty.
    I urge you to remove this proposal from the ballot.”
    This situation in communities such as Jackson is becoming ever more acute as the influx of young Orthodox Jewish families to the community grows day by day. Is it possible this horrible situation could have been avoided or ameliorated simply by those who came before us, utilizing the dictum of Shammai, “Greet every person with a cheerful face?” I believe the answer to this question is a resounding YES.

  5. Rabbi – Thank you so much for sharing your opinion. It is rarely a member of the Orthodox community speaks up and is willing to share his perspective. I also appreciate that you have made an effort to reach out to mainstream non-Jewish communities. I have always known that the Orthodox Jewish communities consists of educated professionals who have mainstream jobs and contribute and are friendly with the non-Jewish communities they live and work in. I know many Orthodox women have college degrees and graduate degrees who work as doctors, psychologists, CPAs, social workers etc.

    I think the concerns we have here in mainstream communities is some of the behaviors of the Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox communities. Many sects within the Hasidic communities have created Haredi only enclaves in Orange County, NY (Kiryas Joel) and many in Rockland County (Monsey, New Square, Kaser). So many of our opinions come from that. I live with my parents like you do in a 55+ community where almost a third
    of my neighbors are non-Orthodox Jews. I think most of the residents of my town are good, hard working people who are welcoming to all people. But we have seen what has happened in Lakewood and our concerns is that the Haredi community is planning to turn Howell into another Haredi only enclave.

    I sincerely apologize for any statements that maybe deemed offensive or disrespectful to the Hasidic and Ultra Orthodox Jewish communities.I may have many misperceptions and misjudgements which I would love to clear up and change if a willing Chasidic or Ultra Orthodox rabbi would do so. I wish their members and leaders would come out and collaborate with our secular and non-Jewish communities to foster coexistence and tolerance.

    Thank you!

    • Not all Hasidic communities are insular nor do they attempt to construct private communities. One such Hasidic community is Chabad of which I am a part.

      For those who do establish such communities they are no different than the Shackers, the Amish or the Mormons. As you know from American history, the early Europeans who arrived here also sought to create insular communities- the Quakers and the Pilgrims. All were, as the Hasidim, motivated by the same issues. A general society that is hostile to the life style they wish to live or, by its own values, make it almost impossible to live that life style within the general community.

      For many, Jews and non-Jews alike in our nation today they find it ever more difficult to live in an American society which has lost its commitment to the Judeo-Christian ethic, the keystone to the founding of our nation. As you may know, from the close of America’s third “Great Awakening” 1850- early 1900s, periods of time when the spiritual, moral growth of the individual was paramount, the adherence and devotion to the moral growth of the individual through that Judeo-Christian ethic has wained ever more year by year. At age 75, raised on what was then called the Protestant ethic in the New York City public schools, I was taught everything in life is either right or wrong based upon Biblical values. I believe I represent the last American generation to be so instructed. As for these groups reaching out to the general community,like the Amish and Hasidim, they wish to live as they do and feel from experience, especially for Jews, the general society harbors negativity toward them that precludes a cordial, neighborly relationship. Today this is evident in the growing antipathy of large segments of our society to religion and its values.Those who separate wish the general community no harm and pray they will feel the same toward them..

      As for communities such as mine- As is he American way, communal rules of use of shared space and even one’s use of your private home and property are determined by majority rule. This means for example, as the only Orthodox family in a 1,500 family senior development, I don’t expect the club house restaurant to be kosher, nor do I expect the pool facilities to allow for modesty, separation of the sexes. Yet when those living here contemplate the possibility, given the growth of the Orthodox community in Jackson, that more Orthodox will move in and perhaps eventually constitute the majority, as has happened in similar developments in the area, they dig in claiming that this will bring a kosher restaurant and modest swimming which, “change the character” of the community, which unlike myself in the present, they could use but do not want. While this may occur, this is not because we are Orthodox but rather, as they already established, the majority always rules with no quarter given to the minority even when State and Federal law require it. In my case that majority also rules over what I can or cannot do in the privacy of my own home even going so far as to preclude, in a recent vote, folks gathering in my home for possible group prayer, the right of public assembly found in the First Amendment to our Constitution.

      As the Orthodox community grows, the only experience they have with the majority, as I, as a community of one am now undergoing, is hostility and efforts to make my family’s life uncomfortable to encourage us to move out and others like us, the ORTHODOX, not to move in. My neighborly efforts at dialogue were fruitless. The only change that has begun to occur and it is quite modest at this point, was when I retained counsel and filed a case in court.

      Were you to experience this rejection and open bigotry I don’t suspect you would want to reach out in kindness and understanding to those persecuting you when you become the majority. As more Orthodox move in, they, as the former majority will no doubt, consider their own interests and only their own interests in the future. Paraphrasing a quote, as I am not insular, from the Christian Bible – As you sow so shall you reap. (Corinthians 9:6).

      • Rabbi, the real question here is: when you gather inside your home for services, or create a Shtibel out of your home, are you also then incorporating your home into a “Church” under 501(c)(3) organization, thereby obviating State and Federal taxes? This is the part that likely concerns your neighbors. If you are so doing, constituting a “church” or synagogue, your neighbors are paying a high price in taxes. This is the issue with many communities that concerns the citizenry. By creating multiple tax exempt synagogues, the town loses the benefit of the taxes for its services. This creates a problem and one that worries the non-exempt citizens. If your response is, “No.” then we most certainly are in agreement. To take it another step, we at this blog (or some of us) believe that town pools, paid for by taxpayers, should have times available for “observant” taxpayers. Muslims, and other religious groups that comply with the same rules of modesty might also approve of that time – an hour or two for men and an hour or two for women. The thing of it is, when the minority does, indeed, become a majority will there be times when both sexes can swim together for the reversed minority? These are things that get ignored when claims are made so flippantly that it is about anti-Semitism. It is not. It is about the imposition of one’s religion on those around you. The US is, indeed, founded on principles of a separation between Church and State. Buy when following your rules inherently requires that you either restrict others or impose upon others to move over, you are no longer being quite so neighborly. Please consider this point.

        • “Not all Hasidic communities are insular nor do they attempt to construct private communities. One such Hasidic community is Chabad of which I am a part.

          For those who do establish such communities they are no different than the Shackers, the Amish or the Mormons”.

          Rabbi – you bring up a very good point about how certain Hasidic sects are similiar to the Shakers, Amish and Mormons, in their choice to remain insular in a secular world which does not understand or respect their values or way of life. It is perfectly understandable the imperative to construct private communities such as what is seen with the Mormons and the Church of Latter Day Saints in Utah and the Amish in Lancaster.
          However I do see one difference between them and some of the Hasidic sects like the Satmar, Belz, Skeverers

          The Amish and Mormons also believe very strongly in being self-sufficient and as far as I know none of these communities depend on government subsidies or if they do it is extremely small. Many Amish are poor with large families like some of the Hasidic sects but even then they never utilize government subsidies. This is documented.

          The Amish and Mormons also are very self contained in certain states and it seems they are not coming into as much conflict and tension with the secular world. But due to the high birth rates of the Hasidic/Orthodox the need to expand is there and is expected to in the decades to come here in the US and Israel.

          Even if the Orthodox/Hasidic communities continue to expand into towns in this region and as you say, eventually become a majority who will prevail, how can they expect not to come in touch on some level with secular communities especially in a state like NJ which has many religions and ethnicities coexisting together? I do not think a creation of more Kiryas Joels or more Lakewoods is as possible in NJ. This region will continue to draw thousands and thousands of immigrants and that growth is not expected to slow down either as NJ is the economic hub of the global economy and the US.Thousands of multi-national companies employ these immigrants who also have established communities.

          If NJ was more of an isolated part of the US like Utah, upstate NY etc, I can see how the Hasidic/Orthodox can remain completely insular and self-contained with their own rules. But to expect that in NJ which is a tiny state and strategically located, does not appear to be feasible or realistic for the Orthodox to have such expectations. But is it our responsibility and duty as Americans to allow the Orthodox to practice their way of life and religion in a spirit of tolerance and coexistence and to respect their choice to remain insular? For me, it is a resounding YES and an absolute imperative.

          I would appreciate your feedback. Again, if there are any misperceptions or misconceptions on my part, please do not hesitate to let me know.

          Thank you, Rabbi

        • I never had any intention of creating a Shtibel in my home which I made clear to my neighbors. Fifty years in the communal rabbinate, with its up an downs, was quite enough for me. For the record I am aware of the tax loop hole used by some in creating a “house of worship” in their home. I deplore it on principle. It has always been my view that large congregations, led by a capable community oriented Rabbi not a magid shiur, can provide much more for a community than congregations of fifty whose foundational principle, more to the point their “rabbi’s” foundational principle, is to save their “rabbI” from paying real estate taxes. How about considering the other side of this coin? Orthodox Jews do pay real estate taxes. Those taxes are in theory to be used to support the local public school,system of which Orthodox families do not avail themselves of electing to pay large sums for their children’s Yeshiva education. Their real estate taxes provide a much more financially stable base for public schools. As for busing for private and parochial school students, in NJ, it was the Catholic Church which pushed this issue many years ago and won. The cost for this busing, instead of being covered by the state in general, in NJ. is placed upon the local school board. This explains why Lakewood has such a difficult issue with busing as more than 3\4 of its children attend Yeshiva. The law should be changed as Agudath Israel has already tried to do.

    • When one speaks of Lakewood we are speaking of a community largely built on an Orthodox grouping that traditionally has been in opposition to the Hasidic movement since its inception. The BMG the largest Yeshiva in the world, could never be accused of being a bastion of the Hasidic movement. Having said that, as our society has moved ever more away from religion and its Biblcal values many more who fall under the umbrella of Orthodoxy have come to the conclusion that to protect their G-dly way of life they must become ever more insular. The notable exception was the late Lubavticher Rebbe zt”l who was in the “utlra-Otthodox”
      camp, Hasidic, a lone voice who many times within ultra-Orthodoxy was considered odd. Yet all too often all are put in the same category “Hasidic.” As for me, I was a pulpit Rabbi for 50 years in three countries – England, Canada and the USA. I shared some of my life experiences with the community in a public letter when I first moved in to introduce myself to my new neighbors. This included my receiving the Chicago Hum,an Relations Award presented to me by Mayor Daley, for my work in bringing better understanding between Orthodox and Black High School students – both groups who generally live in a bubble. Hardly an insular life. My neighbors nevertheless treated me as the “tip of the spear” of the Orthodox “invasion” even when in articles I shared, it was evident that I had serious misgivings with the stereotypical Orthodox. As for your particular concern in Howell, you will find that Orthodox neighbors are generally kind,, sweet individuals. Unlike other groups, they do not bring with them, criminality, gang violence, addiction etc. As for those aspects you find offensive, I would suggest that as a citizen you demand those who violate our laws or take advantage of our social services be prosecuted o the fullest extent of the law.

      • Rabbi, that’s part of the very point of this blog. We make no bones about the realization that there are times when we step a fine line of opinion/fact versus trope. As most certainly you can relate. words have their limits at times. It is during those moments when we step away. You have stated that you are Chabad. We have letter after letter from Chabad members or OTD’s who state that education was insufficient, learning was limited and there is a problem with molestation of boys at the Mikvahs within that community. Disclosure: that is a generality and not everywhere and not everyone. These are the points we are trying to address. But if the community (with which you identify) is unwilling to address these issues then those of us tasked with these duties must do so; and are then accused of being anti-Semites or haters. This is not about hate: it is about right and wrong. Thoughts?

        • I am for lack of a better definiion at 75 “old time Chabad”. I know little of the day to day ins and outs of Chabad in Crown Heights or around the world for that matter. I claim to be a Hasid of the Febbe zt”l his world view and values, nothing more. I am sad to hear that such things are happening. Largely this is the result of a “ship without a captain and crew,” This was not the case when the Rebbe was alive and functioning. Terribly sad.

  6. As a residents of Westlake Golf and Country Club in Jackson, N.J., my family has and continues to experience this virulent and vile strain of anti-Semitism in Jackson NJ. Ours is but a microcosm of this disgusting phenomenon.
    Westlake’s Association’s Board refused to allow us to build a Sukkah on our own rear patio large enough to accommodate my sons’ and my own needs – we are all in wheel chairs. When asked permission to use a gate to exit the property which would place us but a short distance from a Minyan and my daughter’s home thereby avoiding the much longer route on a major thoroughfare with a great deal of traffic, trucks, buses etc. lacking street lighting or for major distances, sidewalks, which necessitates traveling in the traffic lanes, we were denied. Among other reasons given – opening the gate would “change the character” of Westlake. We were left with no recourse but to retain counsel and sue for our rights, both religiously and as handicapped individuals- “reasonable accommodation.” This case is underway. Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

    • Rabbi Lefkowitz, while it may seem that this blog is intended, or sometimes has an air of anti-Semitism about it, quite the contrary is true. We would be interested in publishing your story. But the fear here is that you are one of the, forgive the callousness, unintended consequences of a general malaise of the secular or non-Jewish community. Your plight should not be permitted to happen, not in this world, not in the US. There is a fear and a stereotype but it is not borne out of thin air. It is borne out of those amongst the religious community who genuinely are inconsiderate of their neighbors. It is hoped that the message is coming across here as intended. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, both because of your humanity and because of your disability and you are entitled to not be discriminated against, full stop. But somewhere people from within the community need to start taking stock in why the response of the secular and non-Jewish community is what it is and people need to be willing to work together, not fight a war. Wishing you well and good health.

      • I have for many years addressed the repressive isolation too often a part of Orthodox life in America. One such article was entitled, “The Art of Saying Hello.” While I agree this agitates the anti-Semitism we face in Jackson, it did not instigate it. It has been here for many decades. That members of the Township Council would conspire to stop further growth of our young Orthodox community, and. when caught, resign, demonstrates how deep rooted this anti-Semitism has always been in Jackson. As a proud Chabanik,I would agree this repressive insular attitude is not conducive to the American way of life. We are not in pre-war Poland . Let me add, before I am criticized, I am eagerly awaiting the advent of the Messianic era. For me, the United States is one way station that is comfortable for Jewry. All the more is this the case, as the present resident of the White House is clearly a philo-Semite. As for the details of my situation, Hamodia published a fine article on this subject.

        • Rabbi – One question I have had which I hope you can answer.

          You said that Jackson has had a long history of being anti-Semitic. In some ways I am not surprised because my family experienced enormous discrimination when we moved to Ocean County from NYC in the mid-to late 80s. We were one of the first Indian American families that settled in the Brick-Toms River area. We felt a sigh of relief when we moved to Monmouth County, which is atleast a bit more diverse and educated.

          So my question.

          There were several lawsuits filed by the Orthodox community in some towns in Bergen County when they started the process to establish eruvs. Most of these towns – Mahwah, Upper Saddle River, Montvale, all have large non-Orthodox Jewish communities. Historically and even currently, Bergen County also has a significantly large Orthodox community so it is not as if the Orthodox way of life is foreign to the non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jewish residents of Bergen County.

          The Orthodox community also attempted to establish an Orthodox boys Jewish school in Ocean Township in Monmouth County which the township ruled against. I know a lawsuit was also filed against the town. Ocean Township also has a large non-Orthodox Jewish community and I believe some Orthodox Jews.

          Rabbi – why has their also been hostility and anti-Semitism towards the growth of the Orthodox community in towns which have large non-Orthodox and a handful or Orthodox Jews.

          I would appreciate if you can draw light up on this. Thank you.

          • Sadly a reality of Jewish life is there is no anti-Semite who can compare with a Jewish anti-Semite. More often than not this is a negative result of attempting to blend into the majority society, i.e. rejection of Jewish life which is scorned by that society and in many instances in history persecuted as well. An example of this is the founding of Reform Judaism in the early 1800s in Germany referring to itself as “Protestant Judaism.” even going so far as to apply for membership in the Lutheran Church with the proviso they do not accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. They were rejected. By the way it didn’t work and never has worked. Today when, unlike in the past, Orthodox belief is in the minority it is even more pronounced.

            • Rabbi, with all due respect to you, there are benefits to reform and conservative Judaism that get missed, namely that the children learn some measure of their heritage, their upbringing and their culture. They don’t go OTD to the point where they want nothing to do with their own religious and cultural bloodlines. there can be a safe and healthy middle ground and that doesn’t rise to the level of anti-Semitic or more appropriately self-hating Jew. It is not fair to assume that because someone puts his left shoe on then his right shoe but doesn’t tie his right shoe before his left, he is any less observant or any less a Jew. It is not very charitable to say that someone who travels on Shabbat is any less a Jew. Similarly and what is infuriating is the insinuation (perhaps unintended) that the people who cloak themselves in the garb of religious fervor and tie their shoes appropriately but violate the laws of the land on a regular basis are more Jewish because they “allegedly” follow the laws of the Talmud. Many of those Jews you refer to saved the lives of other Jews, so while their religious beliefs may not comport to what you view as appropriate, many “Messianic Jews” or Protestant revival are known to have hidden Jews from Hitler and the Third Reich. Additionally, and perhaps finally, you yourself commented about the Chickens ruling the hen house since the Grand Rabbi’s death. Some would suggest him to have been the Moshiah. Are those who still follow his tenets, yet go into the Mikvahs and abuse children better or more Jewish than the Protestant Jews you refer to above. There is something of a paradox you have created. – I state all of this respectfully.

              • Perhaps your overview may have been relevant 50 years ago. Today, confirmed by national Federation’s review of American Jewish life done a few years ago, with the massive level of assimilation and inter marriage being experienced in American Jewry and in these movements it is not. That assimilation has even manifested itself in a growing vocal Jewish voice that is anti-Israel, the home of more than 6 million Jews in a sea of hatred! Have you not read the numerous articles concerning these problems WITHIN these movements? They are trying, as yet unsuccessfully, to deal with an issue which is literally destroying their respective denominations albeit thus far – far more damaging to Conservative than to Reform. But then as Reform has admitted, their pews are filled with many non-Jews married to Jews. As an aside I was raised in the Conservative movement of the past. My family includes several generations of Conservative rabbis. That movement of yesteryear has little resemblance to today’s Conservative Judaism..

                • Rabbi, if your takeaway was that I believe that Messianic Jews are good for Judaism, I do not. But the Chabad movement, too, has a whole branch of Messianic Jews all of whom ascribe to the belief that Shneerson was the Messiah. That, too, is quite dangerous. You are right that the Conservative movement has changed, but that in part has to do with trying to keep young people from moving away from Judaism. Sadly, we are in agreement that the Conservative movement is suffering the most. But in all of these discussions, you have avoided touching upon a few major problems and the “blame” that runs both ways, ones that you astutely raised early on: 1) Agitation versus Instigation; 2) the idea of a “Cherem” for anyone who misbehaves within his own community (like the abuse within the Mikvahs) and 3) the view that you are the point at the end of the spear. In the final analysis, you, too, appear to be of the mindset that the Hasidic will move into areas, will become the majority, will turn the tables and will, ultimately make the “others” unwelcome. This is what has happened in much of Rockland and Orange Counties. I return to the initial premise that if that happens, and if the people within the Hasidic community are not working and to some extent assimilating into modernity, those communities will join KJ as the poorest in the nation. It is not wrong to ask: if you are not teaching science to your children, who will deliver your many children or grandchildren? It is not wrong to wonder: once the public school system has been virtually gutted within those communities, and the tax structure impossible to manage (which has happened throughout NJ) who will pay to keep the cities running? These are not ant-Semitic questions. These are wholly and entirely based upon the numbers, the finances, the actuarial tables. – Again, thank you for your input.

                  • “The tip of the spear” comment was made by others not me in suggesting I was the beginning of a coordinated invasion – utterly rediculous. I moved from Chicago, and had never placed a foot in Lakewood. Religion is not a matter of convenience, it is all about commitment, not a very easy goal to achieve. Changes in the Conservative movement were made, as you stated, to make it more acceptable to their young – the creative service replaced the Creator’s service. A religious life especially in our anti-religious society is rather challenging. One either out of commitment takes on this challenge to live a G-dly life or not. As in the past not all Jews do. The Hanukkah epic is a good example of the loss of many Jews and yet we, the Jewish People, survived. I agree with some of the issues you enumerated which face these Orthodox enclaves. They will have to deal with them in some fashion. I would only add that ghetto walls are built by anti-Semitic societies to segregate the Jew. Jews cannot build ghetto walls to separate themselves from an accepting society like the United States. This explains institutions like Touro College which services the ultra-Orthodox student..The Chabad group claiming the Rebbe zt”L to be the Messiah is troubling. It only gets out of hand when that claim results in their deviation from Halacha. Remember, Rabbi Akiva believed Bar Kochba to be Messiah. That is a far cry from accepting, as Messianic Jews do, Jesus as their Messiah. As you know such acceptance defines one as a Christian, not a Jew.

                    • Rabbi, here we differ. In New York, the walls were built to keep out non-Jews, and less observant Jews whom are believed to actually not be Jewish at all because we do not keep the sanctity of the Sabbath. So, it is respectfully inaccurate, by our perception to claim that the Shtetle walls were built to keep the Jews segregated in recent history. It is quite the opposite in New Square and particularly in KJ where any stranger is met at the gates or along the streets by neighborhood watch guards who feel quite a lot more like hired goons than like people wanting to know if you are lost. Sadly, KJ once felt quite welcoming to strangers, a more peaceful and inviting time when the matzoh bakery was opened to tours from strangers during Passover. This paradigm shift is one from within not the other way around.

                    • I fear you misunderstood my comment. I DO NOT disagree with you that the INTENT of the so called “utlra-Orthodox,” (as a Hasid, I do not see myself as “ultra,”) in building their restricted “ghettos” is to keep others out. I stated that in a free and open society as today’s United States such ghettos are severely challenged, meaning the negative realities of that greater society are the negative realities of the Jewish “ghetto” as well albeit on a more, thank G-d, modest scale as you have already pointed out. My mother’s admonition, indeed ALL Jewish mothers’ admonition, which all Jewish children of my generation regularly heard when we learned of an individual committing an illegal or immoral act, that “Jewish people don’t do that” is no longer the panacea to the encroachment of general society upon the morals and ethics of Judaism which all Jews once took great pride in. Additionally, consider the economic issues which require those in the presumed ghetto to interact on a daily basis with and in the world they are attempting to exclude to survive. Walking the streets of Manhattan, doing business with and interacting with all sorts of folks expressing all sorts of views and opinions, using all manner of speech, in all manner of dress, does have an affect upon them. Example – the successful jewelry merchant who, in his ghetto, avoids speaking with women, in his place of business, looks a non-Jewish, scantily clad woman in her face and with a broad smile says “good morning, may I help you?” He may compliment this stranger in so many ways when she tries on one of his items for sale – something he would never do at home. As I indicated Touro college, which serves many youngsters from ultra-Orthodox Boro Park families, is an example of the porousness of today’s Jewish built Ghetto wall and the attempt by its dwellers to deal with it in this instance, to provide their children with professional skills by which to earn a living in an ever more technical society. It is inevitable. It as well explains the ever growing stridency that again is this community’s attempt, admittedly out of necessity, to deal with the porousness of their ghetto walls. As I wrote closed, restricted communities have a terrible time of it in open, free societies.

                    • Rabbi Lefkowitz, thank you. There are those within your community who value the skills taught at Touro College, as but one example. There are those within your community who have raised children who cannot speak anything but Yiddish and Hebrew, with barely enough English to manage the modern world. These are two sides to the same coin in the Chabad community. There are those who believe that the Grand Rabbi was indeed the Moshiah and those who do not. We have heard it all. But unless people like you, with some form of clout, whether political or religious or otherwise stand up and speak out about the importance of education, of policing our own and making very public the criminal elements from within, Judaism as you know, as we know it, will cease to exist. It will get muddied by the dirt. It will, in our view, become a world of fundamentalists and those who hate them, fear them or resent them. This, too, will destroy Judaism as we know it. Alternatively, it will be a world of the worst among us governing the courts, the judicial systems, the politics, the towns, the cities, unfettered and unhindered, calling everyone else anti-Semites. That, too, would be a defeat of Judaism as we know it. We agree on many points you raise and disagree on others. But you are seeing it where you live, those who hate you or resent or fear you because of how you dress, you look, your customs. That will get worse if the garden does not get weeded. Even if you successfully take over another town, becoming the majority, one day there will simply be too much resentment, to much hate. Judaism was not intended to be that type of religion. There must be sensitivity, tolerance and understanding on all sides.

                    • As you can see, I and I can assure you many others, have spoken out. As Margret Meed would remind you, to fully understand a given community you must live within it. Orthodox communal life is not as monolithic as you seem to assume. Dr. Meed also said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I agree, especially so as in our case we are dealing with the absolute eternal truth G-d revealed to Moses and the Jewish People at Sinai.

              • I never stated or implied the view you ascribed to me. Fact on the ground, my son regularly shops in large super markets in the Lakewood area. Staff are not black clad Jews. Some even have difficulty speaking English or Yiddish as their first ;language is Spanish.Not all customers are black clad Jews. No one rebuffs them, no one gives them a judgmental look. If you believe “messianic Jews” are furthering the Jewish People, you are in opposition to ALL Jewish denominations and many Jewish organizations. Again, thank you for this opportunity to share my views. I am a proud American Jew whose family has served in the US military since the Spanish American War when my grandfather’s first cousin rode with the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill under Teddy Roosevelt – Col. Morris J. Mendelsohn, a founder of the Jewish War Veterans of America..

              • As for Orthodox in the American military please refer to this article The Orthodox Jews Who Serve In The U.S. Military – Jew in …
                jewinthecity.com/2017/05/the-orthodox-jews-who-serve-in-the-u-s-military
                The Orthodox Jews Who Serve In The U.S. Military. by Sara Levine May 29, 2017 … we remember and honor the brave men and women who served in the armed forces and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. But how many Orthodox Jews throughout American history have proudly served their country?

    • Question for you; is any of this addressed in the (assumed) HOA rules before you moved in? Would others be allowed to build any sort of enclosure on their deck?

      • The Association rules do allow for the construction of enclosed structures, which have been built by others already, including a Sukkah on rear patios with, as is common in such developments, many caveats. This rule was misrepresented to me in several letters over a three year period from the President of the Association including the claim that my type of home does not qualify for such an addition, which is clearly untrue. . In one letter she gave legitimacy to those who are vehemently opposed to the building of Sukkahs of any kind as but a part of the collective discussion. At this juncture, as a result of my retaining counsel, the Association has agreed that I have every right to construct a temporary Sukkah to meet our handicapped requirements (larger in size with more lighting) and as well that we have, in theory, every right to build a permanent Sukkah if we so desire. We have submitted plans for a permanent Sukkah to which we were sent a series of detailed questions by the Association. We are in the process of responding to these questions.

    • I would agree the repressive isolation of all too many Orthodox Jews, AGITATES but does not INSTIGATE, this sort of anti-Semitism. I have expressed this view for many years in articles printed in the Jewish media. One was entitled, “The Art Of Saying Hello.” I need not amplify further. However, anti-Semitism is nothing new to Jackson. It has been a part of life in this Township for decades. That three members of City Council would attend a public meeting to curb the ever growing young Orthodox community in Jackson, a community that has already demonstrated its commitment to civic responsibility, and when caught, resign, is shocking. As for the details of my situation, “Hamodia” ran one such article as did “Vos Is Nias.” The “Asbury Park News” covered my speech at the community center of St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Jaclson on the subject, “All you wanted to know about Orthodox Judaism but never had the chance to ask.” which saw an attendance of some 300 Jackson residents.

      • Rabbi Lefkowitz, again, your plight is unacceptable in a humane and just society. Thank you for the discourse and for the reasonable answers. They are well respected and appreciated. Something has to give, however, on one side or another. In Rockland, the number of homes that are purchased surreptitiously be not-for-profit LLC’s with basement Shtibels that allow them to qualify for religious tax exemptions is making it prohibitively expensive for those a little less creative with their taxes. The medicaid cards and food stamp cards that come out as you stand in line in Costco in Nanuet is harrowing when someone is buying non-essential items and carrying a prada handbag. This breeds hate and contempt and 2 hours on a Friday morning or Sunday at Costco is enough to bare witness. The anti-Semitism does not come from thin air or a vacuum. It would be nice if civic leaders on all sides voiced their concerns and were respectable and respected for those concerns which are valid. But people are tone deaf. It is refreshing to hear from someone who isn’t.

        • Thank you for the heads up.

          As for the negatives you mentioned in Orthodox communities, again, they do AGITATE anti-Semitism but do not INSTIGATE it, a reality that has existed for ages across the globe. Rav S.R. Hirsh attempted to explain anti-Semitism by suggesting that HaShem wanted one people to be ever subjected to this perennial barrage of hate and persecution only to be saved by HIS intervention to demonstrate to all humanity HIS presence in this world. Perhaps this was Rav Hirsh’s rationalization of a situation which is beyond comprehension.

          Two points if I may.

          1- If the community in question was not Orthodox but Black, Gay, Muslim etc., the out cry for immediate action would be deafening.. Three members of a Township council publicly conspiring to restrict the number of Black, Gay, Muslim residents in their community would be front page national news, a topic addressed and debated by all the “talking heads.”. A blue ribbon panel, perhaps, as is all too common today, a special prosecutor would be appointed to look into what is happening in Jackson. Yet when it comes to Jews, perhaps Rav Hirsh is correct. It is a phenomenon which is seemingly acceptable to many involved including the insular Orthodox. For they view the outside world as irrelevant at best and naturally rife with anti-Semitsm – a fact of life Jews simply must accept.

          2- I am aware of the tragic misdeeds of all too many Orthodox which brings ridicule, rejection, and hatred upon all of us. In Jackson, however, the young Orthodox community, has not manifested these disgusting behaviors and lest we forget, behaviors which violate Halacha, i.e. “The law of the land is the law.” Ours is, in the main, a young upper middle class community of successful folks, professionals and business people who have already demonstrated, as I wrote, their civic responsibility and their neighborliness. Our Minyan, for example, sponsored a block party for ALL its neighbors to break the ice. It was a rousing success.

          Let me conclude with a rather sad observation. The shortcomings in the Orthodox community are horrible and must be addressed in some internal fashion. I had suggested many years ago in an article in “The Jewish Press” the answer may be in bringing back shunning- Herem, Let us not however, live a life with blinders on. Other communities have similar issues of wrong doing compounded by wide spread criminality, mass addiction and brutality on a major scale. We, thank G-d do not. Yet when their human rights are violated, their obvious and dangerous shortcomings are rarely mentioned.

          • Rabbi, first, Shabbat Shalom. Before the Shabbat does come in, thank you for your comments. The interest this blog has is not directly in the wrongdoings of blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, but rather those viewed as brothers. And, while your comparison is correct, were the communities of Blacks, Muslims and Hispanics to throw as much money on the politicians as morally challenged Jews, the scales might tip a bit differently.

            But as to the distinction between agitation and instigation, in Rockland County, NY, as in Lakewood, NJ and other parts, there is respectful disagreement. In Rockland County we have our instigators and sadly they are outspoken members of the Chasidic community who do that community (and yours) no favors.

            At the same time, as certainly you are aware, it is a fine line often tread to try and maintain civility and understanding, quell resentment and still not feel resentful. Being a Jew (not Chasidic) in Rockland County, NY is not easy because not a day goes by when we are asked why we “don’t dress” in frum clothing, why we “don’t” question the community for not vaccinating, why, why, why…. It forever raises both internal and external struggles. Is this Hashem’s doing? Well…. that might be beyond the knowledge of this blogger to posit a guess.

            It is unfortunate that here in Rockland County, there are not block parties to try and “mix and mingle” but the insular communities would never have it. A Herem is justified but in in Rockland County, it would not be financially lucrative for those willing to keep their morals a bit malleable. And unfortunately everyone suffers as a result. Please provide us with copies of articles and anything we can do to help, we are happy to try. Your input is valuable and valued.

            For now, Shabbat Shalom, once again.

  7. Unfortunately the MO of the ultra-Orthodox is to flood a community, achieve numerical majority and then turn it into yet another KJ or Lakewood, making it unpleasant and difficult for the long-term population to remain there. There’s a hive mentality. One can understand the desperation of the unwilling host community, though laws are laws and must be observed. I’d hate to see them invade my town of residence and turn it into a shtetl with businesses closing on Saturdays and the public schools destroyed. Fortunately I live a long way from Rockland.

    • One point – “businesses closing on Saturdays”? Have you never heard of the “blue Sunday laws” which were quire common in this country? Years ago it was well known that the Captain of the police precinct for the lower east side of NYC, which ahd a high concentration of Jews, was quite wealthy because of the pay offs Jews had to make so he would ignore their opening of their stores on Sunday. This is but one example of the cart before the horse when it now applies to Orthodox Jews who regularly in law in the United States were ignored and abused. I remember when in NYC public schools teachers were prohibited from wearing a yarmulka but no one prohibited them from wearing a large cross about their necks which most of my teachers did in a school with a 98% student population of Jews in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn..And while I would agree that we, the Orthodox, should not follow the path of our non-Jewish neighbors, it is a tall task for many, who are but fallible human beings and are now expected to rise above the accepted norms of a society which cared little for their life style needs.

      • Rabbi, thank you. Respectfully, you are “now expected to rise above the accepted norms” quite honestly (and not intended to sound as harsh as a keyboard’s limitations) because you dress the part of someone who should (italics intended) rise above accepted norms. The same expectation would be of a priest who walked around in his Priestly clothing or a nun in her Habit. If someone is going to dress in a manner that draws attention allegedly to his or her values, then that same one is expected to adhere to the best of those values. Is that fair or right? Perhaps not. The anonymity of this blog was in large part because the voice behind it is an attorney with a few degrees under her name. Anonymity served a lot of purposes, one was so that nothing stated would be deemed “attorney advertising” and nothing stated would seem like true or complete legal doctrine. That is what the cloak of anonymity provided. Hasids have chosen the opposite task. There has since been a lawsuit and an unmasking but the LostMessiah “nomme de guerre” allows for the blogger to put on a hat of an “ordinary person” with ordinary thoughts conceptualized in daily or other writing. The point here is that there is a certain expectation placed upon people who dress a part, particularly as it pertains to their daily lives “the clothes make the man”. When the realities are in fact diminished, everyone dressed similarly suffers. Or, closer to home, a lawyer who commits a crime, a fraud, a misrepresentation, is placing a cloud on the entire profession, right or wrong.

        • Your analogy is wanting. The clergy and religious of the Catholic church take on additional moral and sacred responsibilities only such ordination can bestow. Dressing similar to others in one’s community who seek a humble, Torah oriented life, does not unfortunately mean the individuals so dressed have actively committed to living that life style. Judaism is, after all, NOT a religion, but a unique, complex, and demanding life style which even Moses could not fully achieve..This is evident in other such communities, for example, the Amish. There is even a TV show about this issue in the Amish communities.This is not a defense, it is reality which I would hope would change especially driven by their rabbinical leadership. I appreciate this opportunity to delve into this very trying issue. There is a story concerning a Catholic order which sent plans for its new monastery to the Vatican. They received the reply “we are not angels.” In reviewing the blue prints they found that no bathrooms were included. Reality – as other human beings we, the Orthodox community, are not angels but, unlike other communities generally live a law abiding moral life abusing no one. It is important to highlight the good and excellent qualities of our community as well..

          • Your point is well taken. But…. (and please correct me if I am wrong, I too am not infallible) a woman covering her hair after marriage is a Halachic commandment, men wearing Tzizit is part of Halacha, as perhaps might be the covering of a man’s head. The peos are a version of Halacha regarding how a man’s hair is to be cut and trimmed, as perhaps may be the beard (open to interpretation). However, the dress is a cultural convention, not one governed by anything in Halacha, if I am mistaken. Modesty in dress is also open to interpretation. The garments are simply forbidden to be mixed with linen and wool (if I have this right) – something about mixing nature and industry. The dress as a formal matter is not written into scripture anywhere. Therefore, it is a conscious decision to stand out. As to the Amish, what makes them interesting is that each of their communities is wholly and entirely self-sufficient. There is no welfare, medicaid or social benefits provided to large Amish families, if the statistics are still accurate, whereas places like KJ are amongst the poorest in the country and the highest in terms of need for both health benefits and welfare. these are from government statistical websites. If I am wrong, I will correct.

            • You are correct again with one caveat. While dress is not mandatory within halacha as you rightly pointed out, those raised in such communities, where black is all the rage, do not elect to stand out. Quite to the contrary,they are dressing to blend in. Not dressing that way is an act of standing out. We are speaking of communities which do not see the greater society as one they wish to emulate or be a part of.

              • Thank you. If I walk into an observant community, I cover my head and wear a long skirt and long sleeves. I try to be respectful of the conventions of the community. I go to the supermarkets in religious areas for Pesach and for Rosh HaShanah and I do not want to offend anyone or to turn heads. I do not want to offend parents or children. Would you do similarly? Would you wear black but take off the jacket and the hat if you came to my community? Likely not. I realize the over-simplification here. But, that’s the crux of the issue. Wearing black hats, black jackets, black Kippot, etc is not based in Torah law, it is quite simply to establish a unique code of dress, one that stands out. And that dress is like putting a black bean in a bowl of rice and expecting it not to be seen. This is the issue here that you are not grasping. On the one hand, you are saying that you are not “trying to stand out so you are held to a higher standard” and yet, you (collectively referring to Hasidim) go into a community and expect to be viewed as one of the community but male a choice to look different, to look threatening in some respects, to look more pious. Of course, there are going to be greater expectations of your behavior and your humanity. Anything else is asking too much of your neighbors, your community. Similarly, if I walk into a frum supermarket with my hair down and pants, I am asking too much of others if I want them to view me as one of them, not stare, not get uncomfortable, not want to pull their children away. Humans are not built that way.

    • This battle has gone national against all religious folks.

      This is the anti-religious part-

      “WHEREAS, those most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by
      their particular religious views have used those religious views, with misplaced claims of
      “religious liberty,” to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of
      many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and
      religious/nonreligious minorities…”

      DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE:
      Resolution Regarding the Religiously Unaffiliated Demographic
      WHEREAS, the religiously unaffiliated demographic has tripled in the last two decades, now
      representing 25% of the overall American population and 35% of those under the age of 30; and
      WHEREAS, religiously unaffiliated Americans overwhelmingly share the Democratic Party’s
      values, with 70% voting for Democrats in 2018, 80% supporting same-sex marriage, and 61%
      saying immigrants make American society stronger; and
      WHEREAS, the religiously unaffiliated demographic represents the largest religious group
      within the Democratic Party, growing from 19% in 2007 to one in three today; and
      WHEREAS, the nonreligious have often been subjected to unfair bias and exclusion in
      American society, particularly in the areas of politics and policymaking where assumptions of
      religiosity have long predominated; and
      WHEREAS, those most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by
      their particular religious views have used those religious views, with misplaced claims of
      “religious liberty,” to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of
      many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and
      religious/nonreligious minorities; and
      WHEREAS, the Democratic Party is an inclusive organization that recognizes that morals,
      values, and patriotism are not unique to any particular religion, and are not necessarily reliant on
      having a religious worldview at all; and
      WHEREAS, nonreligious Americans made up 17% of the electorate in 2018 and have the
      potential to deliver millions more votes for Democrats in 2020 with targeted outreach to further
      increase turnout of nonreligious voters; and
      WHEREAS, a record number of openly nonreligious candidates are running for public office;
      NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL
      COMMITTEE recognizes:
      1. The value, ethical soundness, and importance of the religiously unaffiliated
      demographic, a group of Americans who contribute in innumerable ways to the
      arts, sciences, medicine, business, law, the military, their communities, the success
      of the Party and prosperity of the Nation; and
      2. That religiously unaffiliated Americans are a group that, as much as any other,
      advocates for rational public policy based on sound science and universal
      humanistic values and should be represented, included, and heard by the Party
      Resolution Regarding the Religiously Unaffiliated Demographic
      WHEREAS, the religiously unaffiliated demographic has tripled in the last two decades, now
      representing 25% of the overall American population and 35% of those under the age of 30; and
      WHEREAS, religiously unaffiliated Americans overwhelmingly share the Democratic Party’s
      values, with 70% voting for Democrats in 2018, 80% supporting same-sex marriage, and 61%
      saying immigrants make American society stronger; and
      WHEREAS, the religiously unaffiliated demographic represents the largest religious group
      within the Democratic Party, growing from 19% in 2007 to one in three today; and
      WHEREAS, the nonreligious have often been subjected to unfair bias and exclusion in
      American society, particularly in the areas of politics and policymaking where assumptions of
      religiosity have long predominated; and
      WHEREAS, those most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by
      their particular religious views have used those religious views, with misplaced claims of
      “religious liberty,” to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of
      many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and
      religious/nonreligious minorities; and
      WHEREAS, the Democratic Party is an inclusive organization that recognizes that morals,
      values, and patriotism are not unique to any particular religion, and are not necessarily reliant on
      having a religious worldview at all; and
      WHEREAS, nonreligious Americans made up 17% of the electorate in 2018 and have the
      potential to deliver millions more votes for Democrats in 2020 with targeted outreach to further
      increase turnout of nonreligious voters; and
      WHEREAS, a record number of openly nonreligious candidates are running for public office;
      NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL
      COMMITTEE recognizes:
      1. The value, ethical soundness, and importance of the religiously unaffiliated
      demographic, a group of Americans who contribute in innumerable ways to the
      arts, sciences, medicine, business, law, the military, their communities, the success
      of the Party and prosperity of the Nation; and
      2. That religiously unaffiliated Americans are a group that, as much as any other,
      advocates for rational public policy based on sound science and universal
      humanistic values and should be represented, included, and heard by the Party

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