JACKSON-The Township of Jackson, New Jersey has been hit with four major lawsuits claiming township Republicans are acting an anti-Semitic manner against the growing Orthodox Jewish community. A multi-year battle between Jackson Republicans and the Orthodox community has resulted in multiple resignations of Republican elected and appointed township officials and has expanded into multiple federal civil rights lawsuits.
Now, Frank B. Holman, III, of Lacey Township, the Republican Party’s Ocean County Chairman is lobbying for a mediated settlement between the township and Agudath (pronounces Ah-Good-uh) Israel of America.
Last week, Holman met with one of New Jersey’s most high-profile GOP donors in America, Dr. Richard Roberts, at his home in neighboring Lakewood Township. Roberts has embarked on a crusade against the local GOP organization for what he described as turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism within its own ranks in Jackson. Roberts has the backing and support of the National GOP organization and National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel who declared that there is no room for anti-Semitism within the Republican party.
When asked what was discussed during his meeting with Chairman Holman, Roberts said Holman proposed an immediate mediation between the township and Agudath Israel of America to prevent the case from going to trial, which is scheduled in May.
“Chairman Holman and I met in my home for about an hour and forty-five minutes on Tuesday,” Roberts said. “He would like me to help him in getting a mediator accepted by both sides in the Agudath lawsuit in Jackson Township.”
“I told Frank I have absolutely no connection whatsoever with Agudath in this case or any other litigation,” Roberts said. “I just have no connection with them, I don’t talk to them. I’ve consciously made the decision to have no contact with them. I don’t even know who to contact at Agudath regarding this case.”
“As a businessman, from business experience, I can’t imagine why the Agudath would want to appoint a mediator at this point,” Robert said. “My understanding is that litigation like this has occurred in other places and the Orthodox Jews win these cases and most likely the Agudath will be awarded attorney’s fees which I believe is likely well over a million dollars, plus they could be awarded damages that could be in the range of three to five million dollars.”
“While Frank is asking that this be settled amicably and why should a judge make the decisions for a township,” Roberts added. “This whole process was started by the township’s illegal discrimination against Orthodox Jews that was multifaceted, the surveillance of Jews praying in their homes, harassment of those Jews by code enforcement officers, threatening the homeowners with summonses to court, which to me is absolutely perverse.”
Roberts said if the congregation of people in homes to watch football games or have a party, then that would be alright by the township, but the town drew a line in the sand and decided to investigate Orthodox Jews praying in their homes, calling it a “dragnet of enforcement”.
He said his focus in Jackson is to bring pressure against the township Republicans to stop spying on Orthodox Jews, stop creating laws to prevent them from buying homes in town and to encourage the township council to repeal several ordinances that were enacted as a result of the increase in the population of the Orthodox Jewish community.
Holman did not return phone calls or texts regarding his meeting with Dr. Roberts.
“Fool me once, shame on you,” Roberts said. “Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Roberts said he doesn’t feel the Township of Jackson acted in good faith during the year-long mediation talks.
The township has acted treacherously regarding Agudath,” he added. “The township has negotiated with Agudath under a court order for a year and they came to an agreement and then when it went to the mayor and town committee, the agreement was totally rejected.”
Mayor Michael Reina has contended that those negotiations were handled solely by former township attorney Jean Cipriani and Councilman Ken Bressi and did not know the details of the settlement being negotiated.
“I find that to be laughable,” Roberts said. “That the mayor wouldn’t know about the single most high-profile legal case that the township has which is under negotiations for a year. That’s absolutely laughable.”
Roberts said the lawsuits will have an unfortunate impact on the community of Jackson.
“I think the township could be facing potential financial ruin, but this is due to the township having violated the law,” Roberts said. “You put all the other issues aside, the anti-Semitism and the notion that a young husband and wife with a few kids wanting to live in a home is going to lead to overdevelopment, put all that aside, the bottom line is the township has a consistent record of committing illegal acts against Orthodox Jews.”
He feels that over the nearly 200-year existence, all these new ordinances were drafted within the two or so years when Orthodox Jews began moving to the township.
“It paints a very clear picture of what is going on there,” he said.
“I have seen in these cases in the past, where towns have acted against the Orthodox Jewish community that they always win, so the town would be forced to pay their lawyers which is in the millions of dollars already,” Roberts added. “On top of that, they can collect damages which can be millions of dollars more. It would be devastating to the town.”
Mayor Michael Reina said he did not know Holman was meeting with Roberts on behalf of the township. Holman, a Lacey Township resident holds no elected office or official title in Jackson Township. He has no legal capacity or authority to negotiate on behalf of the township.
When asked if he knew what the discussion between Holman and Dr. Roberts was about, Reina said, “This is the first I’m hearing about it. Nobody told me.”
Prior to meeting with Holman, Roberts, a Republican himself who has donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates nationwide penned an open letter calling upon Holman to quell the rise of anti-Semitism within his party in Ocean County after the Jackson Township Municipal Chairwoman Clara Glory and Jackson GOP President Todd Porter were both accused of posting anti-Semitic rhetoric on Facebook against Orthodox Jews.