Jackson all-girls Orthodox Jewish school proposal debate continues at Wednesday meeting

The controversy surrounding a proposed all-girls Orthodox Jewish school played out at a meeting in Jackson Wednesday night. (4/2/14)

JACKSON - The controversy surrounding a proposed all-girls Orthodox Jewish school played out at a meeting in Jackson Wednesday night.

The proposal is to build the school on a 7.5 acre piece of land on Cross Street in Jackson.

Hundreds of people on both sides of the issue showed up at Jackson Memorial High School in February. At times, there were bitter and angry exchanges related to the school.

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Wednesday's meeting was no different, with adamant voices from both sides, but the main voice behind the school, Rabbi Ephraim Birnbaum, kept quiet.

Supporters of the school say they need the room for their expanding school population. Another location of the school is in nearby Lakewood.

The response from residents who are opposed to the school has prompted suspicion of anti-Semitism and general animosity toward the orthodox.

Ray Shea, an attorney for Birnbaum, agrees. "I think there's a tremendous amount of fear bred by ignorance," he says. "And that's always a problem in a case like this where you have an unpopular group in focus."

Those who are opposed say the area is residential and the road is heavily traveled, making it not an ideal location. "The plan does not meet the standard of any positive benefits for the public good or the public welfare," says Richard Farber, an educational consultant for the opposition.

The Jackson Zoning Board is caught in the middle, trying to figure out whether to green light the project. 

The board has yet to make a decision on the issue.

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