JACKSON — A swastika was scratched into the mulch at a park in a township facing a religious discrimination lawsuit by a Jewish group.

It is the latest instance of the hate symbol appearing in an act of vandalism in the state.

Parents called police from the playground at Woodland Park on Thursday afternoon, according to Jackson Police Chief Matthew Kunz. Parents covered it over because they did not wish children on their way to the park to see it.

"We have had a recent upswing in juvenile mischief in the park, to which we have responded by increasing patrols in the area," Kunz said. The incident is under investigation.

Kunz encouraged residents to report any suspicious activity immediately to the Jackson Police Department at 732-928-1111.

Swastikas also were found last month spray-painted onto a Plumsted police car outside an auto repair shop. A swastika was found last Sunday morning on the wall of Stonier Hall residence hall on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University.

A lawsuit claiming discrimination over a vote by the Jackson Township Council banning dormitories was amended this week to include a recent vote about right-of-ways and eruvs as examples of a pattern of discrimination.

Agudath Israel of America claimed in its amended lawsuit that a September vote by the Township Council, approving an ordinance clarifying the definition of a right-of-way, was discrimination against Orthodox Jewish residents who want to put up an eruv.

Eruvim were not mentioned in the ordinance, but during discussion before the council vote, the issue was brought up by residents.

Eruvim are symbolic boundaries installed where there are large Orthodox Jewish populations, allowing them to do things like carry keys, push strollers or carry groceries on the Sabbath and on Yom Kippur, when such activity is usually prohibited outside one’s home.

Elsewhere in the state, the Attorney General's Office is suing Mahwah, accusing officials of trying to keep out Orthodox Jews by passing ordinances that banned eruvim and banning out-of-state residents from public parks. Officials and residents have denied that they are anti-Semitic.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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