Jackson NJ Township Refutes Claims of Anti-Semitism Made in DOJ Lawsuit - The Jewish Voice
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Jackson NJ Township Refutes Claims of Anti-Semitism Made in DOJ Lawsuit

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By: Hellen Zaboulani

Council President Alex Sauickie refuted allegations of anti-Semitism made in a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Department of Justice, and he went on to deliver an in-depth clarification.   The Jackson, NJ township was slapped with a federal lawsuit on May 20th, accusing the town of religious discrimination in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  As reported by Jersey Shore Online, the U.S. Justice Department alleged that a 2017 land-use ordinance banning dormitories, unlawfully targets the Orthodox Jewish community, preventing the establishment of religious Jewish boarding schools.

To “exclude them (Orthodox Jewish individuals) from a community is illegal and utterly incompatible with this nation’s values,” Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division had said. In a press conference, Dreiband had threatened to “use the full force of its authority to stop such anti-Semitic conduct and prevent its recurrence.” Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The suit also alleged that the planning board actually approved two nonreligious projects with dormitory-type housing.  To “exclude them (Orthodox Jewish individuals) from a community is illegal and utterly incompatible with this nation’s values,” Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division had said.  In a press conference, Dreiband had threatened to “use the full force of its authority to stop such anti-Semitic conduct and prevent its recurrence.”

At the end of May, Jackson council members voted to repeal the ordinance, which they said was just  a piece of “redundant” legislation.  They maintain their decision is not based on the federal suit.  Rather, asserted that there hasn’t been an application for schools with dormitories since 2014.  “Anyone who wishes to apply for a dormitory in Jackson Township has had the ability to do so and bring it before a township land use board for review,” Sauickie said. “They have that ability now. They had it in 2018. They had it in 2016 and all the years before that.”

Sauickie  also said that the complaint was rife with inaccuracies. “Township Attorney (Gregory) McGuckin mentioned on the record at our last council meeting that in the history of Jackson Township there has never been an application for dormitories therefore there has been no approvals or denials by any party negatively impacted by ordinances placed in Jackson Township,” Sauickie said.

Sauickie stressed that the ordinance which is being repealed was “simply redundant legislation and the town is on record as taking steps to clean up that redundancy which was done before – not as a result of the past week’s DOJ’s press release and subsequent complaint,” Sauickie said.  He also added that the complaint was issued “without ever giving Jackson Township an opportunity to represent itself. The heart of the complaint, land use laws protect against overdevelopment, protect the environment and guide how a municipality should develop in the future.”

He has also announced that a second school ordinance that was under fire, Ordinance 5-20, will be “tabled” until the council’s June 23 meeting, when it can be further debated and possibly voted on.

Sauickie proceeded to boast about the township’s positive track record as well as its low rate of hate crimes.  “Jackson is approaching 60,000 residents and we had one hate crime reported and our police solved that crime and brought those offenders to justice,” Sauickie said.

Saucikie went on to say that his team aspires to “clear up the factual errors.” “We will not let Jackson Township – which is a town inviting to all and has been attacked in the last several years by outside entities and has never been given a chance to tell its side of the story – to be branded so negatively and with a broad brush.”

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