JACKSON-Some Orthodox Jewish residents are calling for the resignation of Jackson Township Councilman Robert Nixon after documents released by the township displayed Nixon’s intent to curb Orthodox Jewish population growth here.
Jackson Township has become a town divided since an upswing in Orthodox Jewish residents started approximately two years ago. While few in town would argue against the peaceful and rural community turning into a bustling city like nearby Lakewood, an Orthodox Jewish center, how to keep it that way remains a source of contention with residents, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
One Councilman, Robert Nixon has led the charge to draft ordinances and legislation aimed at curbing and containing the Orthodox Jewish population here and newly released documents by the township show that Nixon was the driving force behind those ordinances. At times, Nixon acted against the advice of township business administrator Helene Schlegel, township attorney Jean Cipriani and even Chief of Police Matthew Kunz.
Councilman Nixon, a Republican, who is also a professor at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania and a lobbyist for the New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association is facing harsh criticism from the township’s Orthodox population over his actions.
Now, Nixon has been accused of spying on Orthodox residents, including an admission on public record that he drove past a religious gathering one weekend held in a home, counting cars after the township code enforcement department reported there were no code violations or laws being broken by the gathering. Nixon urged the township’s code enforcement office to keep an eye on the home. Despite Nixon’s urging, to date, no violations have been issued to that address, according to public records released by the township.
“I certainly have not and would never support making anyone feel like they were being targeted,” he said in an interview with NJ 101.5. “The inferences made in the story are quite simply false and hurtful. There is a huge difference between referring resident concerns to code enforcement for review and targeting residents.”
While he has been hailed as a hero by those who agree with his methods, not everyone is happy.
“You purposely and with malice aforethought, targeted members of the Jewish community for both their religion and suspected religious practices,” said Orthodox resident Yossi Schwartz in an email to the councilman. “You did so not only in your capacity as council person which was already outside of the purview of your official responsibilities but further participated on your own time, presumably in your own vehicle, in targeting and staking out a member of the religious Jewish community and speculating on the contents of their garages. ”
Schwartz said Nixon’s actions went far beyond any reasonable call of duty after Nixon unsuccessfully attempted to draft legislation that targeted residents’ right to exercise freedom of religion and assembly.
“I do not think that I am in any way overstating the case against you and I can only hope that you enough decency to step down voluntarily rather than waiting for yourself to be compelled to do so,” Schwartz said.
Documents from the township were released to a website called Jackson Leaks, an anonymous grassroots Orthodox Jewish effort to combat what the community feels has been an unwelcoming reception by the township council over the past two years.
Last week, the Lakewood Vaad and the Lakewood Scoop also called for Nixon’s resignation from the Jackson Township Council.