Jackson will pay $575K in Jewish discrimination settlement with NJ
⬜ Jackson was sued for discriminating against Orthodox Jews
⬜ Town will pay penalties and a restitution fund for those impacted
⬜ NJ will oversee local ordinances and policies for three years
Jackson Township and state officials have reached a settlement resolving a discrimination lawsuit, as Jackson was accused of making it harder for Orthodox Jewish residents to practice their religion due to zoning and land use ordinances.
Jackson will pay $575,000, of which $275,000 was penalties and $150,000 suspended penalties to be assessed if the town violates the consent order.
The remaining $150,000 was a restitution fund for individuals harmed by the township’s actions.
The settlement stems from a state complaint filed against Jackson in 2021, which accused the township of adopting discriminatory ordinances and enforcement practices that targeted its growing Orthodox Jewish population.
As written in a consent order in Ocean County Superior Court, the township would also roll back those prior ordinances, including:
⬜ Restrictions on the construction of sukkahs, which temporary open-air structures used to observe Sukkot, an eight-day Jewish holiday
⬜ Zoning ordinances in 2017 that restricted yeshivas and dormitories in residential areas
⬜ A zoning ordinance that severely restricted eruvim, which are symbolic, boundary-defined areas that help observant Orthodox Jews carry items in public areas during Shabbat
Under the consent order, Jackson was also now required to notify the state of any decision, policy, practice or vote that might affect religious land use within town or the free exercise of religion.
For a three-year monitoring span, the state can object to any such decision, policy, practice, rulemaking or vote, and require revision and amendments.
⬜ Jackson mayor, town officials to undergo anti-discrimination training
Under the settlement, Jackson Township will create a $150,000 restitution fund to compensate any person who has been harmed by the previously described conduct. Individuals who believe they have been harmed can email the state at JacksonRestitutionFund@njcivilrights.gov.
The town will also establish a multicultural committee, made up of residents, to work to address issues impacting Orthodox Jewish residents and any other discriminatory behavior within town.
The committee is supposed to represent and reflect the demographics of the town, meeting quarterly and providing reports to the township and state.
Jackson officials, including the mayor, Township Council, Zoning Board and Planning Board, would also undergo training on discrimination in land use and zoning — including yearly DCR training during the three-year term of the consent order.
⬜Jackson discrimination settlement announced ahead of Sukkot 2023
The settlement was announced about a month before Sukkot, which will begin at sunset on Sept. 29 and end at nightfall on Oct.6.
During the eight-day religious holiday, those observing it construct a Sukkah and eat all their meals inside it.
The first two days are “full-fledged, no-work-allowed holiday days,” according to Chabad.org.
For the rest of Sukkot, work is allowed with restrictions.
⬜ Platkin: Jackson settlement protects ‘residents’ right to religious freedom’
“No one in New Jersey should face discrimination for their religious beliefs,” Attorney General Platkin said in a written statement on Monday. “We are firmly committed to eliminating discrimination and bias across our state, and we expect local leaders to comply with our robust anti-discrimination laws.”
“Religious freedom is a bedrock principle of American democracy, and we are deeply committed to protecting it here in New Jersey,” Division on Civil Rights Director Sundeep Iyer said in the same written release.
“As hate and bias – including against the Jewish community – continue to rise, it is critical that we call out religious discrimination when we see it, and it is especially important that we hold public officials accountable when they treat people differently based on their faith.”
The same 2017 ordinances that were part of the state's lawsuit against Jackson Township were the subject of a federal suit filed in 2020.
That suit was settled last year, as Jackson was required to repeal any active discriminatory ordinance against religious elementary and secondary schools, religious higher learning institutions and religious residential schools.
The federal consent order also required that Jackson pay a civil penalty of $45,000 and $150,000 into a settlement fund.