Jackson – As the Orthodox Jewish population in Jackson grows, so too will their political influence. Tensions between the Orthodox Community in Jackson and the governing body have grown over the past few years. Actions taken by Mayor Reina’s administration and the governing body have resulted in three lawsuits in the last year alone and quietly some members of the administration are fearful that the Orthodox Community may push Mayor Reina out of office this year.
In may of 2017, when the Township put in new restrictions on the construction of schools and dormitories, the Jewish advocacy group Agudath Israel of America and school-builder WR Property LLC filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Trenton. The group argued that these new ordinances violated the religious freedoms of residents.
Then in September of 2017, when the Jackson council voted to change an ordinance to prohibit the construction of eruvs in the right-of-way, which is the publicly owned lawn between the sidewalk and street, the Township was subsequently sued again by the same advocacy group on the same grounds.
Most recently in January of 2018, Pitney Lane resident Isaac Tawil filed a lawsuit that alleged a religious gathering of Orthodox Jews was the subject of an illegal code enforcement “stake out” urged by Council Vice President Nixon. The administration argued that residents had been calling the township to complain about the large number of cars that were filling the street on a regular basis.
In Lakewood, an influential group of religious and business leaders called the Vaad, regularly endorse local, state and national candidates for office. The endorsement carries a lot of political weight and even has the ability to influence the outcome of state wide races in New Jersey. The endorsement typically results in a block vote where up to 90% of the township will vote for an endorsed candidate.
Sources say that the Lakewood Vaad is not happy with Mayor Reina. So the question is, with tensions between the Reina administration and the orthodox community so high, can the Mayor be reelected? Only time will tell.