‘We are not anti-Semitic,’ says New Jersey group fighting ‘adverse effects’ of ultra-Orthodox

“Using the most vile anti-Semitic methods reminds us of a very dark period of Jewish history,” says Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, a spokesman for the haredi community of Lakewood, N.J.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

“Let’s start with what we are not. We are NOT anti-Semitic, in fact, we welcome all faiths to our efforts and more specifically embrace our friends in the Orthodox Jewish community.”

That is an introductory comment on a Facebook page of a New Jersey group calling itself “Rise Up Ocean County.”

The movement claims it is suffering as a result of the lifestyle in one of the county’s townships, Lakewood, a center of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Judaism.

“The adverse effects of continued development and growth in Lakewood, N.J. are being felt by every surrounding community… Schools, infrastructure, municipal and school budgets, municipal, county, and state resources are all being pushed to the breaking point,” says Rise Up Ocean County.

“Quality of life issues in the surrounding towns are arising on an almost daily basis. The vast majority of these issues come about as a result of an unwillingness to abide by normal societal standards, standards that all residents are expected to adhere to regardless of race, creed, color, religion, disability, or sexual identity,” the group alleges.

They are planning to translate their complaints into action by “organizing in an effort to stave off further quality of life erosion, return Ocean County to her majestic stature, and demand from our elected officials that all residents comply with local, county, state and federal law.”

The group claims that its campaign is “not about a specific religion,” but it’s clear that its problem is due at least in part to the large size of many haredi families.

“There can be no mistake that over the last couple of decades a population explosion has occurred in Lakewood, New Jersey. In 1990 Lakewood had a population of 45,000, today that number is close to 110,000 with projections to double in size by 2030. Understanding that Lakewood cannot possibly support the housing and infrastructure needs, we acknowledge the urgency to expand beyond the boundaries of that community,” says the group.

“Furthermore, we believe that the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders must take a more active role in restricting future development and to devise a plan for safer and more robust infrastructure,” it adds.

Using Nazi imagery to denounce Jews

A video released by the group last month says: “First they came for my house but I did not speak up. I said I am not willing to sell and closed my door. Then I put up a ‘no-knock’ sticker on my door…Then they came for my forests but I did not speak up…Then they put houses in place of forests and again I did not speak up…then they came for my board of education…then they came back for my house and ignored my sticker because there was no one left to speak for me.”

The group notes that those words are based on a poem by Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor in Germany who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in a concentration camp. He concludes his poem by saying: “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Whatever the strong feelings about this poem may be, it would appear that Rise Up Ocean County is using Nazi imagery to raise accusations against haredi Jews because as the narrator says “power corrupts” and the words appear on the video, a large group of Haredi Jews of different ages can be seen in the background.

Another video, titled “When Charity Begins At Home and Stays There,” charges that a Lakewood-based charity for kids has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, but that only 36% of the monies have gone to children and “those kids are almost exclusively Jewish.”

“It’s a vicious group that’s trying very hard to put a genteel veneer on their deeply anti-Semitic agenda,” Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, a spokesman for the Lakewood Vaad, a local Jewish communal organization, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).

“Using the most vile anti-Semitic methods reminds us of a very dark period of Jewish history,” he added.