May 25, 2024
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Sign Company Turns Down Billboard Supporting Freeing the Hostages

A request for a billboard supporting the release of the hostages was turned down by the company that owns the billboard in South Brunswick even though a message asking passersby to contact congressional representatives to save Gaza’s children had been allowed. Lamar Advertising claimed that the township restricted religious or sensitive advertising.

Efforts by a local Chabad rabbi to place a billboard in support of the Israeli hostages on Route 1 in South Brunswick on behalf of the Israeli American Council (IAC) were denied by the office of a national advertising company claiming it couldn’t accept “sensitive or religious advertising” in the township.

However, Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, executive director of the Chabad of North and South Brunswick, said the company had allowed several billboards during Ramadan, including one asking passersby to contact their congressional representatives to save Gaza’s children.

“We were not asking for free advertising and it was not sensitive or religious messaging,” said Rabbi Carlebach. “We were only seeking to bring awareness to freeing the hostages. We were told it was not allowed because of the sensitive nature of the messaging.”

In a series of communications with Lamar Advertising shared by Rabbi Carlebach, the company claimed the township only recently began forbidding religious messaging. However, Rabbi Carlebach said he checked with the township before requesting the billboard and was told there was no problem on its end. The billboard is located at the intersection with Promenade Boulevard near the entrance to Princeton Walk townhomes in the Monmouth Junction section of the township.

However, in a communication to Rabbi Carlebach, account executive John Vulpi wrote: “I checked internally and was told that recently the township has placed certain restrictions on these two billboards where we are not allowed to post anything related to the hostages or the kidnappings. If you’d like we have plenty of inventory on the NJ Turnpike and all throughout New Jersey that I can send you some other options. However, if you were dead set on that location, I’m sorry to say this was a township restriction that was recently put into place.”

Other billboards also appeared in the spot along Route 1 during Ramadan.

Lamar did not return a request for comment.

“I pass this billboard every day and during Ramadan there were messages from restaurants and businesses catering to Muslims wishing them Ramadan Mubarak [happy Ramadan],” said Rabbi Carlebach. “I said to them (Lamar), ‘You’re allowing a message about Gaza’s children, but you’re not allowing anything about the hostages to be put up? ‘I get your message. You’re allowing Palestinian propaganda but not anything about the hostages. It’s clear to me where you guys are coming from.’”

Rabbi Carlebach, who is also the administrator of Rutgers Chabad, explained that he chose the site because it is heavily trafficked with drivers going to Newark and New York going north and Philadelphia and Trenton going south and went to the IAC, which had paid for a successful billboard with the same message in Times Square, to sponsor it.

“I told them it was a very good location,” he said. “We were considering putting the message on both sides of the billboard.”


Debra Rubin has had a long career in journalism writing for secular weekly and daily newspapers and Jewish publications. She most recently served as Middlesex/Monmouth bureau chief for the New Jersey Jewish News. She also worked with the media at several nonprofits, including serving as assistant public relations director of HIAS and assistant director of media relations at Yeshiva University.

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