New Jersey’s Attorney General has called on Facebook to review the page operated by “Rise Up Ocean County,” saying that some of the content the group has posted appears to be “inciting violence against Orthodox Jews.”
First gaining wide publicity in late January, Rise up Ocean County (RUOC), an anonymously led online forum, was launched in 2018, claiming to focus on rallying citizens in towns around Lakewood to stymie the expansion of the area’s growing Orthodox community. Much of RUOC’s rhetoric has been seen as anti-Semitic, and the group has focused increasing attention not only on local issues but on Judaism in general.
“Far too often, we have seen how hateful comments can escalate to hateful conduct,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in a statement regarding the letter sent to the company.
In a letter to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, Rachel Wainer Apter, Director of New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights, detailed several comments she labeled as incitement, such as references to the county as being “under assault” and to Orthodox growth as “colonization.” Site administrators endorsed comments saying that “Toms River people need to declare war. Surrounding towns will come and join the fight. Wake up people. VOTES WON’T FIX THIS.”
The letter also makes reference to a clip that was widely criticized, which parodied the words of a well-known Holocaust-era poem, adapting it to RUOC’s call to action against the expansion of the Orthodox community.
Mrs. Apter charged Facebook to take action in “monitoring comments” on its page that could incite readers to violence. It cited comments made by members such as, “We need to get rid of them like Hitler did” and “I live on the edge of Toms River and Lakewood and the gang war has begun. I have my mac11 loaded.”
The company told Hamodia that they were working together with state authorities on the matter.
“Facebook does not tolerate hate speech or direct attacks on people on the basis of characteristics like race, ethnicity and national origin,” said a company spokesman. “We appreciate the New Jersey Attorney General’s attention to this matter and are working with the Division of Civil Rights to identify specific content on this Facebook page that may violate our terms so we can remove it immediately.”
Since coming to the fore, a group of community activists from the Lakewood area have worked together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to encourage towns to call out RUOC as anti-Semitic. Both Lakewood Township and Ocean County’s governing body condemned it by name. Jackson and Toms River passed more opaque proclamations decrying hatred and bias in more general terms.
Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, a spokesman for the Lakewood Vaad, welcomed the attorney general’s action and called it an important step in the battle the community and others have waged in calling out RUOC.
“This basically delegitimizes them,” he told Hamodia. “Rise Up tries very hard to hide behind a veneer of being about overdevelopment and transparency, but from day one, it’s consistently been a forum for Jew-bashing that tried to draw attention to anything in our community they can paint in a negative light. Unfortunately, there are a cadre of hard-core RUOC supporters who will not be turned off by this, but once the attorney general accuses you of inciting violence, it’s pretty hard for any respectable person to be associated with them.”