(Courtesy of Agudah.org) New Jersey Attorney General Grubir S. Grewal announced that his department has filed a lawsuit against Jackson Township, New Jersey, alleging Jackson Township has engaged in a litany of illegal, discriminatory practices against Orthodox Jews. Among them are enacting zoning laws that restricted yeshivos and outlawed dormitories, discriminatory targeting for surveillance of homes of Orthodox Jews suspected of hosting minyanim, discriminatorily interpreting of land use laws to inhibit the building of sukkahs and enacting zoning ordinances that ban the creation of eruvim.
In a particularly strong statement, the attorney general noted the animosity some residents of Jackson have expressed towards Orthodox Jews, and made it clear that elected officials cannot allow hateful rhetoric to drive public policy. “We’ve filed this lawsuit because bias and hate have no home in New Jersey, and we will not allow some vocal residents’ intolerance to drive local government decisions. Like all public servants, municipal officials have a duty to uphold the law, not weaponize it against specific groups because of what they believe or how they worship. Today’s lawsuit should send that message to anyone in New Jersey who needs to hear it,” said Attorney General Grewal in a statement.
New Jersey’s lawsuit against Jackson Township comes after Agudath Israel’s lawsuit against Jackson alleging the township engaged in discriminatory behavior against Orthodox Jews, as well as following a federal lawsuit by the United States Department of Justice alleging the embattled township violated RLUIPA, a federal law prohibiting zoning boards from implementing any land use regulation that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of individuals.
Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey office, commended Attorney General Grewal for filing the lawsuit. “We applaud the attorney general for taking this bold action, which sends a clear message to public officials that discriminatory behavior has no place in New Jersey,” said Rabbi Schnall. He added, “We are hopeful that township officials will respond to these lawsuits in a positive way and immediately reverse these discriminatory practices, replacing them with encouraging and positive messages to the Orthodox population within Jackson.”