Jackson has been through a really rough time. I feel for the residents of Jackson who watched their town change relatively rapidly with an influx of religious Jews whose customs and appearance seemed strange and foreign to them. When Jackson residents began seeing hundreds of Orthodox Jewish families moving in to enjoy the space, beauty and relative tranquility of Jackson, they didn’t quite know what to make of it.

First they got upset when these families started buying a lot of homes in the area and then when they started doing things in town that made it easier for them to observe their religion. Namely, putting up eruvim, which is a symbolic, nearly invisible fishing-like wire that creates borders within which they can carry objects on the Sabbath. Next, the Jewish community set about to secure essential dormitory space to house students who study their holy books in seminaries.

Both of these actions, along with the rapid change in the town, rankled many long-term Jackson residents. And it’s understandable. Many people fear or dislike change. Many don’t like to see a town whose culture and environment they they have grown accustomed to endure a sea change, and many feared this would change the culture of the town. In most cases like these—and history shows us there are many—residents stick around and eventually get used to the change. Those who simply cannot or will not adapt to change move out.

The mistake that the local Jackson government made was trying to prevent those changes from happening, enacting laws that prevented dormitories from being built and banning the aforementioned eruvim. In America, like it or not, you just can’t do that. Religious, ethnic, minority and immigrant groups have been moving into neighborhoods where they were not wanted since the birth of this country. “There goes the neighborhood” is a saying that’s as old as America is.

As we matured as a country, we enacted laws to prohibit discrimination against any group. So what Jackson was trying to do was discriminatory and therefore illegal. A representative body of the orthodox Jewish community called Agudath Israel sued Jackson, alleging that town officials passed these ordinances simply to keep religious Jews out.

According to the Lakewood Scoop, that’s exactly what Jackson did. United States District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp agreed. He ruled that those Jackson ordinances were both unconstitutional and discriminatory. He imposed a preliminary injunction, effectively undoing those laws.

According to the article, in his ruling, Judge Shipp wrote that Jackson “must follow the applicable procedures For obtaining permits and approvals for the construction of Shuls [synagogues] and eruvim that were in effect prior to the adoption of these ordinances.”

As difficult a time as we are having in this country lately, it’s comforting to know that in America, no matter how different people are or how strange their customs may seem, we’re still doing what’s right: Using our laws and our constitution to protect ALL Americans, regardless of race, creed, culture or religion.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi Franco’s own.

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