Is movie about Lakewood anti-semitic? NJ groups condemn message
A documentary taking on the issue of over-development in and around Lakewood hasn't even been released yet, but a number of groups claim the trailers promoting the movie are offensive enough, and towns should publicly disapprove of its distribution.
The group behind the documentary says the issues they seek to address are not related to religion, and it's even taken the unusual step of deleting one trailer that "may have crossed a line."
Ahead of Jackson Township Council meeting Wednesday evening, a multi-faith press conference has been scheduled to call on town officials to pass a resolution condemning Rise Up Ocean County's production and distribution of their documentary titled OC2030.
The title, in a nutshell, relates to the prediction that Lakewood's population will jump to at least 230,000 by the year 2030, more than double the current population.
"The trailers that they've sent out to advertise so far have had some very disturbing anti-Semitic content in them," said Michael Cohen with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization. "These are not open for interpretation. It's very clear what they're saying."
Trailers for the film warn viewers of "colonization," featuring imagery and words that many times refer to the Orthodox Jewish community. The trailers claim "32,000 houses and 200,000 more people are coming our way" — unless the community "rises up" to "stop it now."
Development so far, the trailers say, has been catastrophic, environmentally, civilly and economically. The promotional material tells viewers that "the truth is coming" when the documentary is eventually released, perhaps as early as Feb. 18.
The administration team for Rise Up Ocean County said the documentary is "currently in legal review" and its release may be delayed.
"The legal review is to ensure that we are on solid footing," the team said.
Some of the allegations made in OC2030, the team said, are quite damning and will inevitably result in prosecutions.
The team of nine individuals — six women and three men — includes one Orthodox Jewish member, the team said.
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On Feb. 7, Lakewood Township adopted a resolution opposing the "activity and anti-social behavior" of Rise Up Ocean County. The resolution states the group has "incited ill will and bad feeling among Ocean County municipalities in their effort to discredit the Jewish population."
The resolution specifically calls out a trailer's misquoting and mischaracterization of a famous poem by a German theologian who was strongly opposed to the Nazi regime during the 1930s and 1940s.
On Monday, that material was deleted by the group from its website, but was still public on YouTube as of Tuesday afternoon (Trailer 3 in the videos above).
"When we appropriated a poem written at the time of the Holocaust, we may have crossed a line," the group said in a Facebook post. "Although we maintain that its use was appropriate based on the 'complacency is complicity' message of the poem, we recognize that we touched a raw nerve with those in the Jewish community."
The same post says that featuring Orthodox Jewish residents is "coincidental" because that happens to be the majority population in Lakewood.
"You see, it doesn't matter WHO is responsible," the post reads. "It only matters that the environmental destruction, erosion of the quality of education in public schools, the continued strains on our infrastructure and the corrupting influences in our political system are all very real."
Cohen, a New Jersey resident, said while there are challenges present in local communities, inciting hate isn't the way to handle them.
Rise Up Ocean County said the resolution passing in Lakewood came as no surprise, and it was not met with resistance. There will be no resistance from the group should the matter go before Jackson Township officials, but the group said it condemns governing bodies that would "so willingly forgo our first amendment right to speech to curry favor with a small but very powerful group in the Lakewood community."
The group said it's confident that its cause represents the views of the majority of Ocean County residents.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Jackson Township's website did not list such a resolution on its Feb. 13 agenda.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.