TOMS RIVER – There wasn’t any pomp and circumstance from the politicians. The resolution was listed along with 21 others, simply saying “Resolution opposing and condemning the Administrators, Creators and Many of the Activities of ‘Rise Up Ocean County.’” All the resolutions were approved together.
The social media site has been accused of stirring up aggression against Orthodox Jews in Lakewood and surrounding towns, culminating in a documentary that was scheduled to come out this month but has been postponed to an unknown date.
A statement from Rise Up explained that the documentary was delayed because a screening committee had identified nine minutes of video that could expose the group to civil litigation due to “personal identifiers” being recorded. The documentary focuses on three instances of alleged criminal activity, and attorneys who screened it also thought that more documentation was needed to back up the claims.
An unnamed representative from the site toldJerseyShoreOnline.comin a previous interview that their efforts aren’t anti-Semitic, but focus on what they feel are immoral or illegal practices regarding such things as housing.
Orthodox Jews in the area see the posts it shares as hateful – and the angry, sometimes threatening tone of the people commenting, as proof of the fact that it was meant to be divisive.
However, it wasn’t just Orthodox Jews that took offense to the social media page. If it was intended to cause a divide, it had actually caused people of different cultures to speak at the Freeholder meeting against it.
Lakewood Board of Education member Ada Gonzalez, Michael Cohen from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, state chair of the NAACP Mike McNeil, and several others praised the Freeholders for their condemnation of the site.
Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of Agudath Israel of America, a religious advocacy group, said that the Freeholders’ statement was a historic one. However, there was another incident that happened on the same day, Feb. 20, but 80 years ago. Madison Square Garden was host to more than 20,000 at a pro-Nazi rally. Jews in the area were beaten.
“The messages are not on banners anymore,” he said of Nazi signs. “They rest on social media websites.”
Last year, on Memorial Day weekend, houses of worship across denominations sent out the same message: Love Thy Neighbor. Colin Lewis, an activist in Ocean County, reminded the crowd of how people came together for that simple message.
“Speech that puts you down is not what we want here,” he said. “We want speech that’s going to build people up.”
Community advocate Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg said the website was “hate speech disguised as issue-oriented.” He said there are definitely issues that need to be discussed, but this site is not interested in discussion.
He said it was humbling to see a diverse group of people uniting against it. “Today they might come for me and my kind, but tomorrow they might come for you and your kind.”
Chanie Jacobowitz, a vice president at Beth Medrash Govoha, said that the school was created by Rabbi Aaron Kotler in 1943 after he came here as a refuge.
“It’s disconcerting to us to see anti-Semitism that we thought was left behind in Europe,” she said. “This website has shown the world the worst of Ocean County.”
It was passed unanimously by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders with only one comment. Freeholder Director Virginia Haines said that people need to unite, rather than divide each other.
After the Freeholder meeting, Rise Up posted a retort to the Freeholders, calling them traitors.
It said that there is “no anti-Semitism, no hate” on their site. It also accused the Freeholders of selling out “for a few sheqels and a Lakewood Vaad endorsement.”