Jackson Township Orthodox Jewish Chaplains Spreading Awareness in Morris County

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JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – It was a rough time for Jackson Township back in May of 2018. The township was being sued by multiple Orthodox Jewish entities claiming town officials were trying to block Orthodox Jewish families from moving to town.

The Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Justice were both levying allegations against Jackson Township’s governing body at the time, including former Councilmembers Barry Calogero and Robert Nixon. Jackson Mayor Michael Reina was also on the hot seat for overseeing the operation, including telling residents to ‘stay strong’ and not to sell their homes to Jewish families.

Then, out of the blue, Reina appointed, for the first time in the township’s history three Orthodox Jewish rabbis to serve as chaplains in the township. They were Mordechai Burnstein, Israel Bursztyn (Lakewood) and Yankel Wenger (Lakewood).

“In Jackson Township, we have many different people from different walks of life and [it] is a great idea to have someone officially represent them when needed,” Reina said about his appointments.

Four years later, Bursztyn and Wenger are spreading cultural awareness of the Orthodox Jewish culture around the state.

Today, the two Jackson chaplains were recognized by the Morris Township Police Department after speaking on behalf of the National Chaplains Association.

“During our agency’s last two training days, members of the National Chaplains Association came to speak to our officers about cultural awareness and sensitivity, specifically with Judaism,” the Morris Township Police Department said. “Rose Thumim spent a significant amount of time educating and interacting with our officers about Judaism. She familiarized us regarding customs, beliefs, holidays, and helped dubunk common myths.”

“She was joined by Chaplain Yisroel Bursztyn and Chaplain Yaakov Wenger in order to build a partnership with our officers that will allow us to understand and assist members of our community that are Jewish. They also assisted us with access to Jewish-specific resources to navigate through certain police-involved incidents,” the department added. “We are grateful for their time and their willingness to have conversations that will help our officers be more effective.”

Wenger is active in Ocean County politics and operates the Lakewood Shopper, one of the township’s biggest Orthodox Jewish newspapers.