ADL Files Open Records Requests in Wake of Rising Anti-Semitism in Ocean County, NJ - The Jewish Voice
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ADL Files Open Records Requests in Wake of Rising Anti-Semitism in Ocean County, NJ

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Edited by: JV Staff

On the heels of the release of ADL’s 2019 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, ADL’s New York/New Jersey Regional Office announced last week that it has filed open records requests pursuant to New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq., seeking information regarding how Jackson, Toms River, Howell, and Brick are responding to record-high levels of antisemitism in the state.

According to ADL’s most recent audit, antisemitic incidents rose 73% in New Jersey in 2019, reaching 345 total incidents – the highest number ever recorded in the state and the second-highest number recorded anywhere in the country last year.  In addition to the incidents of vandalism, assault and harassment documented in ADL’s audit, the New York / New Jersey regional office has also been deeply troubled by rising antisemitism online targeting the Orthodox and Haredi communities in Ocean County (the county that saw the highest number of antisemitic incidents anywhere in the state last year).

For example, prior to being removed from Facebook earlier this year, a deeply problematic Facebook group called “Rise Up Ocean County” hosted comments promoting violence against the Orthodox Jewish community, such as, “We need to get rid of them like Hitler did,” and, “When they resist, bulldoze them.”  More recently, the wake of COVID-19, the social media posts brought to ADL’s attention have ranged from blaming the Orthodox Jewish community for the spread of the virus, to referring to the community as an “inbred cult” that believes it is “above the law,” to credible threats of assault: back in March, a New Jersey man was arrested for threatening to attack Orthodox Jews in Lakewood with a baseball bat.

Unfortunately, this rhetoric has not been limited to a few bad actors – local elected officials and community leaders have also used blatantly antisemitic language when speaking about the Jewish community in relation to COVID-19.  By way of example only, ADL recently condemned the Ocean County Fire Marshal – a person entrusted with keeping everyone in our community safe – who called Lakewood’s Orthodox Jews “trash,” “dirty ones,” and “filth,” and wrote on social media that Lakewood should be turned into a “hole in the ground.”  ADL expressed similar outrage in response to statements made by former Jackson Township Council President, Barry Calogero, suggesting that people in Jackson were “hiding behind their culture and religious beliefs” to put others at risk, and calling for the National Guard to be deployed to Lakewood.

“Last year, antisemitic incidents reached unprecedented levels in New Jersey.  Now, in the wake of COVID-19, things only seem to be getting worse.  We hope that the responses we receive to our OPRA filings will shed light on how our local elected officials are grappling with and responding to this scourge, and the policy decisions they are making as a result,” said Etzion Neuer, Interim Regional Director of ADL’s New York / New Jersey Office.  “At a time when strong moral leadership is imperative, it is incumbent upon our elected officials to use their platforms to stomp out hatred and antisemitism, whenever and wherever it may arise.”

ADL’s regional leaders said the rise in incidents last year was alarming.

“Jews in New Jersey are dealing with levels of bigotry unmatched in the past forty years,” Shira J. Goodman, regional director of ADL’s regional office for Philadelphia and South Jersey, said in written statement. “As we have seen in Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City, Monsey and elsewhere, anti-Semitism in America can be deadly, and we cannot afford to leave it unchecked. This is not a Jewish problem; this is an American problem, and we need all Americans to join the fight against anti-Semitism.”

ADL is a leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online, ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.

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