Saturday, July 11, 2020

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Civil Rights wants to stem the “rising tide of hate” by asking Facebook to monitor a page it sees as dangerous for Orthodox Jews.

The Facebook page is called Rise Up Ocean County, or RUOC.

With its 10,000-plus followers strong, RUOC has made a name for itself since late last year for singling out, with almost
Joseph Goebbels-like zeal, the growing Orthodox communities located in and around Lakewood.

RUOC has produced at least four trailers for a documentary called “OC2030” it is producing on the issue. One of the trailers was so blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Orthodox that it was taken down by the group itself. Still, it doesn’t take much effort to find RUOC on YouTube with its hardly subtle anti-Orthodox messaging.

A male voiceover explains why Ocean County is in fiscal and environmental danger while showing only scenes including mostly Orthodox men and boys. The “epicenter,” a trailer explains, for this allegedly detrimental growth is Lakewood, where the film says the numbers (implying Orthodox Jews) will overtake Ocean County. The film sadly might as well have just said “The Jews.”

“We need to get rid of them like Hitler did,” “when they resist, bulldoze them” and “…the gang war has begun,” “I am knocking out the first person I see from Lakewood at the meeting tomorrow. Again, that’s not a threat, but a promise,” are just a small sampling of the anti-Semitic comments found on the RUOC Facebook page.

State Division on Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer Apter sent these very examples in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chairman and CEO.

Wainer Apter’s letter validates the already-clear evidence that RUOC is in opposition to what it calls the “overdevelopment of Lakewood by Orthodox Jews.”

She also wrote to Zuckerberg that RUOC’s Facebook page was condemned in separate resolutions from the Ocean County Freeholders and the Lakewood Township Committee. The Lakewood Township Committee referred to the comments as a clear instigation of “ill will.”

The letter reported to Zuckerberg as well RUOC’s parody of “First They Came,” the Martin Niemoller poem condemning the complicity of German citizens during the Holocaust. Wainer Apter wrote that the misuse of the poem encouraged people “not to be silent in the face of Orthodox Jews moving to Lakewood.”

Lakewood Vaad Spokesman Rabbi Moshe Zev Weissberg has said that RUOC is a “Jewish bashing” platform trying to disguise itself as a community action organization. He applauded the attorney general’s actions, saying his actions basically “delegitimized” RUOC.

In past posts, RUOC has written that Orthodox Jews have planned to “colonize” the county. Toms River, suggests a screed, is “under attack.” Community members are urged to “wake up,” that “votes won’t fix this.”

In its mission statement, RUOC declares: “We are NOT anti-Semitic. In fact, we welcome all faiths to our efforts and more specifically embrace our friends in the Orthodox Jewish community. This is NOT about a specific religion, this is about equal treatment under the law and mutual respect for others.”

But the AG’s office sees it differently.

“Far too often we have seen how hateful comments can escalate to hateful conduct,” Grewal commented. “Our Division on Civil Rights is committed to fighting this rising tide of hate, and we’ll continue taking proactive steps to make New Jersey a more welcoming community for people of all backgrounds and faiths.”

The attorney general also tweeted: “Comments are no longer confined to the dark corners of the internet. They are out in the open.”

“There is a rising tide of hate around our country and around our state,” wrote Wainer Apter. “We at the Division on Civil Rights are working with community organizations to combat it by creating connections, fostering mutual understanding and respect and confronting stereotypes.”

By Phil Jacobs