Lakewood Briefs

LAKEWOOD -

Jackson Mayor’s Email Calls for ‘Gloves Off’ Fight in Zoning Cases

An email sent by Jackson Mayor Michael Reina to several attorneys seems to support a widely held belief that the township plans to abandon a preliminary agreement to settle a lawsuit over a set of zoning laws seen as aimed at discouraging the growth of the Orthodox community in the area.

“As I strongly stated Monday, game on, gloves off and representing all our residents is the direction moving forward,” he wrote early this past January.

In 2017, Jackson passed laws that led to a de facto ban on the construction of new schools and dormitories and another that prevented building communal eruvin.

The town was sued by Agudath Israel of America. Following the filing and an investigation by both state and federal authorities, town attorneys entered into mediation and signed a preliminary agreement to scale back the laws, but no agreement has been reached.

A few weeks ago, it became known that Jackson had engaged Ms. Marci Hamilton, a long-time opponent of expansion of protections for religious groups particularly regarding land-use laws. The email was revealed by an anonymous forum known as “Jackson Leaks.”

Agudah has submitted a request to the court to move ahead with litigation. The hiring of Ms. Hamilton and the recently revealed email seem to support their claim that Jackson’s negotiations over the past year have been going on in “bad faith.”

Challah Bake Held for Women in Lakewood Area

A grassroots group of Orthodox women from Lakewood and surrounding towns held a community wide “challah bake” together with participants of diverse backgrounds from throughout Ocean County.

The event was intended to serve as a means of building bridges and achieving greater mutual understanding and appreciation across communities.

The event was held last week at the Ramada Hotel on Route 9 in Toms River and brought together nearly 100 participants. Some who attended heard about the event through on-line posts.

One of the organizers, Mrs. Tova Herskovitz told an Asbury Park Press reporter that the challah bake was an opportunity to overcome cultural divides and hopefully lessen tension between communities.

“It’s a way to break the mystique and invite people into our culture,” she said. “[We need] more places where people can come together and meet people who aren’t like them, but at the same time share common values.”

Rep. Kim Co-Sponsors Controversial Legislation

Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) has signed on as a co-sponsor of a controversial piece of legislation that would likely erode protections for religious traditionalists and advance a key priority for social progressives.

The bill titled, the “Equality Act,” was first introduced in 2015, but has never made it to a floor vote. Now, with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), has made its passage a high priority.

The most concerning aspect of the bill to advocates of religious liberty is its stripping away of legal protections that have shielded traditional practitioners whose faith is in conflict with certain progressive social trends.

One of its provisions is a clause that says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) will no longer protect citizens from a broad swath of “discrimination” claims.

Rep. Kim, who has billed himself as a centrist Democrat, enthusiastically cheered the legislation’s introduction calling the bill an “important effort to expand human rights for all Americans.”

Rep. Smith Supports ‘Gateway’ Funding

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) emphasized the importance of securing funding to construct a “gateway” tunnel to expand Hudson River crossings between New York and New Jersey.

“Gateway funding is a necessity for people of my district, not a luxury. Both our regional and U.S. national economies would be devastated should a disaster befall either of the tunnel tubes, already in critical need of repairs,” he said.

The two states are connected by several bridges and by the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels which were opened in the 1920s and ’30s.

Both states have advocated for funding to build additional passageways for some time and talk of major infrastructure investment during the 2016 elections raised hopes of securing the necessary federal funding, which remains under discussion in Washington.

County to Begin Document Shredding Program

Ocean County announced the opening of its annual document shredding program beginning this spring. The program brings necessary machinery to each of the county’s townships to provide free shredding in an attempt to prevent identity theft.

The 2019 event will include 21 locations and will be provided by IDSAutoshred of Toms River. Last year’s program processed 120 tons of documents which also is aimed at saving landfill space.

Collections will begin in Jackson in early April, but not reach Lakewood until July, and Toms River until August.