Lakewood snowplow incident has members of the Jewish community on edge
Ocean County prosecutors are trying to determine if an incident where a snowplow driver allegedly intentionally sprayed two Orthodox Jewish men with snow while they were walking outside in Lakewood could be considered a hate crime.
A video of the incident was posted on social media. The driver could be heard laughing about the situation. The incident has caused much outrage around the Garden State and has put some members of the Jewish community on alert.
"We have thousands and thousands and thousands of people who live here who every day wear religious markers and should be able to do so freely without feeling their lives are at risk,” says Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
Shames says fighting antisemitism has become a growing challenge over the last 10 years.
In the now-deleted Facebook post, the driver apparently captioned the video, “This one’s for you JC,” in an apparent reference to Jesus Christ. That driver, who was off duty at the time, has been suspended from Waste Management pending an investigation.
“It sends a message to us we always have to be aware that we’re different and it’s unfair,” Shames says.
A report published in October found that nearly 40% of Jews in America changed their behavior over the last year out of fear of antisemitism. But some reject that.
“I take it as a thing of pride. I’m Jewish. I’m proud. I wear a yarmulke to work, when I go to the bars. I wear it when I go out,” says Jack Turell, basketball coach at Zion Sports Academy.
But he says that bias can fester beneath the surface and fear can escalate to violence.
Just last month hostages were taken at a synagogue in Texas. And in December 2019, two gunmen targeted a Jewish grocery store in Jersey City, killing several people.
The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey works with at least 100 locations in Bergen County to help them upgrade security.
“Making it more difficult for someone who wants to do damage to get into the building,” says Shames
He says that after the Jersey City shooting, they found some small synagogues didn’t even have proper locks. He says that it is also about training and what to look out for and how to react in a crisis.