I was disturbed after reading Gabe Kahn’s “Let’s not sweep alleged Lakewood fraud under the rug” (July 13), where you say that the problem was “perhaps part of a lingering belief from centuries past in Europe, where Jews were subject to anti-Semitism, that it was permissible for Jews to take advantage of the government.”
How can you say this? There has never been a time when Jews should be portrayed as feeling they had a right to steal from a government nor has it ever happened. This is insulting to all of us whose parents and ancestors were from Europe.
Prof. Sandy Freund-Lang
Rutgers School of Law-Newark
The criminal acts of some members of the Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community has done egregious harm beyond the actual theft, deception, and graft committed. It has also given fuel to the ugly specter of anti-Semitism.
Whether it is the public schools or services to children and families in need, the selfish and self-serving exclusionary stances taken by some leaders in this community has led to manifestations of a culture of greed and entitlement.
We who identify ourselves as Jews are guided by two primary principles: tzedakah, charity, as a moral obligation; and tikkun olam, deliberate acts of kindness to repair the world. It is time for a dialogue with all members of the Jewish community — Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform — about what has transpired and what might be done to show support to the children and their families in Lakewood deprived of the public services they need and rightfully should be given.
It is beyond time for an awakening of the Orthodox community in Lakewood. Restorative practices should be put into effect that honor the guiding principles of tzedakah and tikkun olam.
Although I agree with Gabe Kahn, I felt that he should have included the reasons for the people being charged with the crimes. By not doing so, it seems that he did much sweeping under the rug himself, which compelled me to list some very important facts from recent articles in The Star Ledger.
For example, in the past 20 years, the Lakewood population has almost doubled and grown to 100,000, which includes 60,000 chasidic Jews. There are more housing developments being built. The ultra-Orthodox make up more than 60 percent of the town’s population and have a majority on the planning board, zoning board, and school board.
Lakewood is the home of the largest yeshiva in the United States with 6,500 students and it anchors a dozen other smaller schools. Students attending parochial schools use school buses that are aided by tax monies.
There is also a school called the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, which has received $23 million to educate 261 children, run by Rabbi Osher Eisemann, who was recently indicted. There has been so much tax money spent on education in Lakewood, with far from enough real estate taxes being collected, that the town is going bankrupt. One reason is that 350 buildings are listed as synagogues and pay no taxes, although some are valued at close to $1 million.