Jackson Council Pulls Ordinance Targeting Orthodox Jewish Dormitories


The following is a brief recap of the February 28, 2017 Jackson Township council meeting.  A full story will follow later today.

JACKSON-When Jackson Township Council President Ken Bressi proposed a township wide ban on dormitories in his town, it was clear to everyone what the goal of that ordinance was and who the targets were.

In nearby Lakewood Township, home to Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the world’s largest Orthodox Jewish Yeshivas, most Jewish students live in dormitories, but some, in makeshift dormitories, sometimes in homes located in residential areas of the township.   Even though Jackson Township’s border is nearly 5 miles from the BMG campus, out of the required walking distance of the university, the township proposed the ban on dormitories.

These dormitories became a local spotlight in January when a fire at a makeshift Lakewood dormitory displaced 50 students.

Many in Jackson’s Orthodox community felt the ban on dormitories was a moot point since none currently exist and the likelihood of Yeshiva dormitories in the town is very low.  They felt the proposed law was simply another ordinance targeting members of their faith unfairly.

In the past, members of Jackson’s Orthodox community had approached the township council to offer advice and feedback, to work together to craft sensible ordinances that would help maintain the quality of life in town in a manner that would not be seen as a continued crackdown against members of their faith.  Those community leaders said their offer to support the council’s effort to maintain quality of life standards were flatly rejected.

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On Tuesday night, as the township council was poised to pass the ordinance, an obvious effort to curb the growth and migration of the growing Orthodox Jewish population, they were met with with an audience of nearly two hundred Orthodox Jewish men who came to protest the action.

Upon seeing the large gathered crowd, the council quickly suspended their regular public business meeting and entered a private executive session, a rare action for the 5 member all-Republican board.

After a few minutes, the council returned to the public meeting and announced it would not be voting on the ordinance and it needed further legal and planning board review, admitting flaws in the manner in which the ordinance was proposed, reviewed and introduced.

The basic rundown…

  • A lawyer representing the Jewish community in town told the council it was one of the most anti-Semitic ordinances he has ever seen.
  • Orthodox Jewish Jackson resident called the Jackson Township council anti-semitic and alt-right fascists.
  • Orthodox Jews in Jackson are upset that the Jackson council has passed numerous ordinance aimed at curbing their growing population in town.
  • Previously, a no-knock ordinance, realtor realtor canvassing laws, a prohibition on trailers and a landlord registration law have all been aimed at slowing down the growth of the Orthodox population in the town.
  • At the first reading of the ordinance, the Jackson council was asked if the ban on dormitories also covered drug recovery homes, nursing homes, halfway houses or the dormitory facilities in the Cassville section of town. The council said it does not.
  • Jackson’s anti-dormitory law was the first such law that could be found anywhere in the United States, raising concerns about constitutionality.
  • The lawyer representing the Orthodox community declared the law an unconstitutional law that is meant to unfairly target the Orthodox Jewish community.
  • The lawyer representing the Orthodox community has already successfully tried and won cases targeting the Orthodox communities in Howell, Toms River and Ocean Township.
  • Many township residents were upset that the township council pulled the ordinance in the face of opposition.
  • Opposition to Jewish growth in town has been mounting over the years through groups such as Jackson Strong who have expressed vocally their dislikes for the rapid growth in town.
  • Despite the setback, the township council will reintroduce a the ordinance on March 14th.
  • Orthodox residents told the Jackson council at the meeting that they wish to maintain the quality of life in Jackson and commended the Jackson zoning board for being strong and said the town should have more faith in the zoning board’s ability to govern development.
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The fundamental problem with the ordinance is that no such ordinance has ever been proposed anywhere in the United States.

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