Lawsuit alleges Jackson Township officials violated civil rights of Orthodox Jewish community
A lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General against Jackson Township alleges that the civil rights of Orthodox Jews were violated.
The lawsuit claims that ordinances passed in the town were intended to keep the Orthodox community from moving there. Examples include banning the construction of dormitories and schools and monitoring private homes.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday. Multiple instances alleging discrimination are noted. According to the lawsuit, emails sent to leaders from residents included phrases like “take over our town” and “destroy our neighborhoods.” Other emails stated, “The gang war has begun” and “We need to get rid of them like Hitler did.”
Jackson, already embroiled in several federal Department of Justice lawsuits, now faces this new lawsuit and the potential of a financial burden impacting all taxpayers.
“As a taxpayer, I am worried for the town because I don’t see how the average residents can afford paying for these cases, which can go on for multiple years and just get deeper and deeper,” says Jackson Township resident Mordy Burnstein.
Burnstein is also a member of the Orthodox community who moved to Jackson six years ago. He spoke at Tuesday night’s council meeting and urged leaders for a compromise and a settlement. He says that he puts the blame on past leadership, who he says did nothing while the lawsuits piled up.
“Seemingly to the average resident looking from the outside, absolutely nothing – after the effort of having a settlement worked out was tabled – then there was an effort to start repealing laws that was tabled,” Burnstein says.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for each violation and the cost of attorney fees, leaving the option of the court to assess other fees it sees needed.
Burnstein says that these suits can be settled out of court and can save taxpayers money. But he says that all sides must come together and that politicians need to ignore what he calls “rabble rousers” and focus on leadership.
“The average Jackson person – resident – is not bigoted. They’re not racist. They are good, hardworking, family-oriented families and if you push those people aside and not give them a voice and give them the clout they think they have, we’d be in a much better place,” Burstein says.
Township attorney Greg McGuckin says that discussions are ongoing. He says that he was not notified by the Attorney General’s Office prior to the lawsuit being filed.