It began as an innocent, even charming encounter between Gov. Chris Christie and a 12-year-old student from Springfield who rose to ask a question during a town hall meeting.
By the time it was over, the boy had complained of “Jewish” control of Springfield and its school board, Christie appeared flustered, and the boy’s father emerged as a political gadfly with a penchant for singling out Jews for criticism.
The incident occurred during a Dec. 21 town hall meeting in the Middlesex County town of Spotswood, during which Christie fielded what reports described as a “bizarre” series of questions from local citizens.
Toward the end, Surya Makkar, who attends Springfield’s Florence M. Gaudineer Middle School, read a rambling statement about how he had been accused of bullying another boy at the school.
At one point, the boy suggested that he had been singled out as a Hindu, blaming the “Jewish community that controls the township of Springfield and its School Board.”
When he asked the governor for a simple “yes or no only” answer as to whether or not the incident he described sounded like bullying, the governor responded “no.”
Christie made no mention of the boy’s statement about the “Jewish community.”
Instead, the former U.S. attorney pointed out that as a prosecutor he learned that “before making judgments on anything you better hear both sides of the story.”
“Fundamental fairness requires we listen to everybody,” he added. “Let’s hope that in Springfield they are not doing things that discriminate against you because of your religion or your background. Let’s hope this was a bad misunderstanding.”
Before the meeting, Surya’s father, Devendra Makkar, handed out pre-printed copies of the boy’s statement to the audience. It included a reference to what he called Springfield’s “All Jewish [school] Board.”
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” said Etzion Neuer, director of community service and policy for the ADL’s New York Region, contacted by NJJN a few days after the meeting.
Neuer became familiar with the elder Makkar during his seven-year tenure as the ADL’s New Jersey regional director.
“Most 12-year-old children are not going to come up with a statement like that on their own. There is no question that the child is parroting something heard somewhere else. I would direct our appropriate indignance toward the parents in this case,” he told NJJN in a Dec. 27 telephone interview.
A web search by NJJN reveals that Makkar runs a number of web blogs, including “Citizens for Democracy” and “Attorney and Judge Corruption.” The latter details his legal disputes with various Springfield developers, including Zygmunt Wilf and other members of a family of prominent Jewish philanthropists. On a Flickr site, Makkar, who also goes by the first name Dave, posted photos of a construction project near Wilson Road, which is labeled “under destruction by Zionist Zygi Wilf.”
In 2007, Makkar announced he was running for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey.
Another blog, “bullyingbyeducators,” details the alleged bullying incident involving his son. The blog is peppered with references to the “All Jewish Board” and the “Rulers [sic] Jewish community,” and a complaint that “this is the second time the Jewish Leadership of Springfield has racially discriminated [sic] Surya Makkar.” It goes on to allege that a three-year-old Surya was blocked from entering an unspecified court room by a “Jewish woman Officer.”
“This is a bizarre anti-Semitic conspiracy theory,” Neuer said.
Rabbi Mark Mallach of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield told NJJN he is familiar with Devendra Makkar, and would be prepared to lend assistance “to any efforts to combat xenophobia. The Jewish community is incensed at these lies and is steadfast in bringing our assistance to the school system to help create a more open community.”
In a phone interview with NJJN a day after the town hall meeting, Makkar continued to insist that “the Jews have special privileges. More than other people, yes, because you guys are the chosen person of the God. I don’t buy your bulls—t that my son is anti-Semite.”
The elder Makkar said the town of Springfield “is one-community rule. It is not democracy…Springfield, it is run by a Jewish gang. If you are not a gang member, if you are not a friend of the gang, if you do not support the gang, you cannot be appointed even to a dog committee.”
But Makkar insisted that neither he nor his son is anti-Semitic.
“I am not a hater but I can’t stand the people who are doing wrong, I don’t care which community,” he told NJJN.