Antisemitism in Jackson, New Jersey
Antisemitism in Jackson, New Jersey

Against the backdrop of rising antisemitism in America, I was surprised this week when Dr. Richard Roberts, a major GOP donor who gave over $1million to the Trump campaign, sent me a letter he sent to the Mayor of Jackson, New Jersey (which includes Lakewood) where he accused the town of antisemitism.

Roberts served as Vice Chair of the Israel Advisory Committee for the Trump campaign and has donated to the political campaigns for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Rand Paul, Governor Scott Walker and former Congressman Allen West.  

Roberts produced documents via Freedom of Information act requests, where local New Jersey police conducted “surveillance of Orthodox Jews gathering for a minyan.” As Roberts told me, “Township employees looked into home windows to see if Orthodox Jews were praying, walked into the backyards of residential properties to see if Orthodox Jews were praying in a swimming pool hut or garage, checked license plates, and followed Orthodox Jews who were carrying ‘bibles’.”

“The actions of Jackson Township have been atrocious. We don’t need to pray in a synagogue. We can pray in a parking lot, office, home, airport, or wherever else we are. The idea that Jackson Township officials were performing organized surveillance on Orthodox Jews, to stop us from praying in homes, is obnoxious. Jackson Township emails reveal that Jackson Township officials, and other employees knew Jewish praying times and staked out multiple blocks to count Orthodox Jews going into homes to pray at those times.”

Chilling. Wow. This is America?

Earlier this month, Facebook removed a page which was harshly antisemitic called “Rise Up Ocean County,” where media reports indicate disturbing language to criticize the largely Hasidic community, including “I would trust a rat before a Hassidic [sic],” one commenter wrote. “We need to get rid of them like Hitler did.” This removal came after New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal called on Facebook to take action against the group.

The outrage of some antisemites in New Jersey comes as the result of increased Jewish presence in the area. The reality, as Roberts noted is “when Orthodox Jews move in, is the basic principle of supply-and-demand resulting from the nature of the Orthodox Jewish religious lifestyle. We need to be clustered together because we need the infrastructure of kosher food, religious schools, praying with at least ten men three times per day, and not driving on the Sabbath. Since we must live in close proximity to each other, the demand for houses rises sharply in such areas so house prices spike upward and non-Jews make a lot of money for themselves by selling their homes. These factors are also what Jackson Township is attacking – praying together, schools, and other aspects of Orthodox Jewish life (eg. eruv).”

And of course, if someone doesn’t want to sell their home, they don’t. If they do, they make a good profit on it. It’s called supply and demand.

Not so long ago, often white non-Jews would not sell their houses to African-Americans because they did not "want them in their neighborhoods," even claiming that a black family living in the area lowers the value of their homes.  This was racist and shameful and is, hopefully, a thing of the past.

And now, it is simple racism and shameful behavior in Jackson, New Jersey.

Ronn Torossian is a New York City based entrepreneur.