Lakewood Briefs

Ocean County Leaders Condemn Anti-Semitism at Simon Wiesenthal Sponsored Event

A broad base of Ocean County elected officials and civic leaders condemned anti-Semitism and thanked the Murphy administration for its efforts to battle vitriolic rhetoric on social media in a press conference organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Director Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal opened the event held last Wednesday in front of the County government’s central building in downtown Toms River.

“We are not just talking about words anymore, but real threats,” he said. Rabbi Cooper went on to thank those gathered as well as Governor Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal for their support and solidarity. He went on to detail multiple signs of the role social media has played in the spread of “hate” speech and violence calling for the federal government to form a task force to address the matter.

Others who addressed the rally included Freeholders Joseph Vicari, Virginia Haines, Jackson Council member Ken Bressi, and State Senator Robert Singer. County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer, Lakewood Committee member Mike dElia, Lakewood Board of Education Member, Ada Gonzalez, and Father John Bambrick, St. Aloysius in Jackson.

Since last spring, the Murphy administration has been engaged in efforts to force Facebook to reign in Rise up Ocean County (RUOC), a controversial page widely seen as inciting ill will towards Orthodox Jews in and around Lakewood. Shortly after the page’s emergence, Simon Wiesenthal Center led a campaign calling on local municipalities to formally condemn RUOC. Lakewood and the county government did just that, but Toms River and Jackson opted to adopt vaguer statements calling out hate and bias without naming RUOC.

In the wake of violent attacks on Jews in Jersey City and Monsey, Governor Murphy called out Facebook publically for its failure to address potentially dangerous rhetoric within the forum it provides and Attorney General Grewal re-doubled his efforts to push for action regarding RUOC.

The impetus for the recent press conference in Toms River was an opinion piece in the New Jersey Star Ledger that criticized the administration for its stance and sought to legitimize RUOC’s stated mission of addressing overdevelopment.

Yosef Herz, Associate Director of Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey division, who also spoke at the press conference lauded the Murphy administration’s efforts.

“When that promise of America is challenged, when misinformation is spread, either online or in op-eds, and hate begins to grow, it cannot go unchallenged,” he said. “Hate must be called out for what it is, and we are grateful to Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal for doing just that.”

Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Forms Vaping Taskforce

The Ocean County Prosecutor’s office is joining with over a dozen local health and educational organizations to form a task for to address what it terms a “youth vaping epidemic.”

“We were all being inundated with requests to come out and speak to various groups about vaping,” said Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer. “As we were all trying to get out there and educate the public, it became very apparent that we were overlapping in some communities. This Taskforce will help to streamline the message and enable us to reach a wider audience and get the facts to the kids and their parents.”

Partners in what will be known as the Escape the Vape Taskforce include RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery, the DART Prevention Coalition, Community Medical Center, Deborah Heart and Lung Center, Ocean County Department of Human Services, Ocean County Youth Service Commission, Ocean County Health Department, Ocean County Branch of the Association of Student Assistance Professionals (ASAP NJ), and the Ocean County Association of School Administrators.

The Taskforce’s goal is to provide the County with a multi-pronged approach to addressing vaping including education, policy change, and cessation.

In a press release, the Prosecutor’s office cited national figures that 25.5% of 12th graders, 19.9% of 10th graders, and 9.6% of 8th graders had vaped nicotine in the past 30 days. It also quoted Center for Disease Control figures that as of December 2019, 2561 have been hospitalized with vaping related illness around the United States.

The taskforce’s partners have already trained thousands several thousand educators, community members, and students regarding the epidemic.

Sen. Singer Bill to Support Meals on Wheels Becomes Law

A bill sponsored by Senator Robert Singer allowing taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to Meal on Wheels on their tax returns has been signed into law.

“As our aging population continues to grow, we need to increase support for invaluable organizations like Meals on Wheels,” said Sen. Singer (R-Ocean). “Homebound seniors often experience extreme isolation and hunger. The volunteers are an important safeguard for those who may be at risk of injury or illness.”

Money collected under the fund established by the new law will specifically benefit local chapters of Meals on Wheels.

According to Meals on Wheels, eight out of 10 low income, food insecure seniors are not receiving the home-delivered meals they need. Ocean County is home to one of the largest populations of senior citizens in New Jersey.