Edited by: TJVNews.com
The township of Jackson, New Jersey settled a federal Justice Department lawsuit alleging that a 2017 ordinance banning dormitories sought to keep out yeshivas, according to a JTA report.
For many years now, the Orthodox Jewish community of neighboring Lakewood has swelled in ranks and its population has increased exponentially. As such, large numbers of young Jewish families have relocated to Jackson but have been met with resistance from those who have lived there for decades.
Jackson residents have been encouraged not to sell their property to Orthodox Jews and to wage legal battles against them in terms of keeping their synagogues, yeshivos, and mikvos out of the area.
Lawn signs saying “Jackson Strong” are a ubiquitous sight in the town that is known as the home of the “Great Adventures” amusement park. The words “Jackson Strong” are essentially code words for “Don’t Sell to Jews.”
JTA also reported that under the consent order announced Wednesday, the township must replace the 2017 ordinance with one that allows “religious elementary and secondary schools, religious higher learning institutions, and religious residential schools.”
The lawsuit alleged that the township sought to stem the flow of Orthodox residents into the town with the ordinance, according to the report.
JTA quoted Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Ms. Clarke said: “Zoning restrictions that intentionally target religious communities have no place in our society.” She added: “This resolution reaffirms that members of the Orthodox Jewish community — as with people of all faiths — are welcome in our communities and have the right to practice their religion free of discrimination.”
The settlement includes a payment of $200,000, with $150,000 set aside for anyone who was harmed by the ordinance, according to the JTA report.
The Gothamist reported that civil rights lawsuits against the town filed by the state of New Jersey and Agudath Israel of America remain outstanding.
The 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act stipulates that land use discrimination is illegal. In 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions increased the number of lawsuits that the government filed against local authorities as tensions increased between towns in New Jersey and Orthodox communities. JTA reported that the Jackson Township lawsuit was launched in 2020. That was former President Donald Trump’s last year in office, and the Biden administration continued to pursue it.
Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, which lobbies for RLUIPA enforcement, said he was pleased to see that the consistency between administrations, according to the JTA report.
Diament said: “It’s very important that under still a relatively new administration, the Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division, in particular, led by Kristen Clarke, is continuing to aggressively enforce the act, and that it’s something that continues to transcend administrations and political parties.”