JACKSON-Township residents, including those of the growing Orthodox community expressed their disapproval of Mayor Michael Reina’s appointments of two Lakewood rabbis to the public clergy in April.
For decades, Jackson Township had one chaplain, Captain “Chaplain” Dan Schafer who also serves as the police chaplain for Brick Township, Stafford Township, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, Jackson’s four firehouses and the Jackson First Aid Squad.
In April, Mayor Reina expanded the clergy to include a board of township chaplains outside of the police chaplain.
This story is based on information obtained from an Open Public Records Request through the Township of Jackson. The original documents can be found here.
Joining Rev. Schafer were Rabbi Jan Rosenberg, Rev. John Bambrick, Rev. Dan Schafer, Joseph Tiedemann, Rabbi Mordechai Burnstien, Rabbi Israel Burystn, Shmulie Naparstek and Rabbi Yaakov Wenger.
Most operate within Jackson, except for two, who reside, work and operate in Lakewood.
Rabbi Wenger operates a weekly newspaper in Lakewood, the Lakewood Shopper and Rabbi Burstyn runs the Lakewood Civilian Safety Watch, both are active in Lakewood and Ocean County politics.
“In Jackson Township, we have many different people from different walks of life and [it] is a great idea to have someone officially represent them when needed,” Reina said about his appointments.
Some in town were upset that non-Jackson residents were appointed as township chaplains, as the requirement for most of the appointed mayoral advisory committees and boards consist of Jackson residents only.
“Chaplains to help serve a community in a time of need are wonderful and increase the quality of life of its residents,” said one Orthodox resident in an email to the township after the appointment. “Chaplains who would do such are a wonderful plus, and Jackson did the right thing in appointing such.”
He praised the efforts or Rabbi Modechai Burnstein and Rabbi Shmulie Naparstek, both of whom are very active in the Jackson Orthodox and Jewish community.
He went on to say, “As a resident of our town, I am insulted and angry to see the other two Orthodox chaplains. Do 600 Orthodox families need 4 rabbis?”
“Do the two Lakewood chaplains have anything to do with the Orthodox community in Jackson?” he added. “As a resident, I can tell you the answer is no!”
He went on to say that while Rabbi Wenger and Burstyn are good people, he said, “They…have their own goal in mind. The township must have known his when appointing them and I kindly ask you to reconsider.”
Moishe Heiman, another Orthodox Jackson resident spoke out against the appointments.
“Last night’s move to appoint chaplains of different sects living in our town is a very good idea,” he said. “The concern I have is why the mayor need to select four people to represent the Orthodox community? And Even more concerning is why did the mayor appoint two individuals from Lakewood. What do they have to do with the Jackson Orthodox community? Why would they be interested in being a chaplain in a place they are not familiar with?”
He said he was worried about ulterior motives in the appointment process.
“The answer is clear, they have an ulterior motive,” he said. “They have connections to groups unwanted in Jackson and looks like they found a new way to get their foot in the door.”
He gave his endorsement of Burnstein and Naparstek.
“For the mayor to appoint individuals from outside of Jackson as well as politically interested people is simply not the right thing and will possibly destroy any and all benefits of creating chaplains in the first place,” he concluded.
In early April, Reina notified the township council about the new board of chaplains to be appointed and said he had sent out invitations to religious leaders within the community.
Jackson resident going now by the anonymous moniker, “Chris Fred”, who is an outspoken member of the Orthodox resistance movement in town lambasted the mayor.
“It seems to me you are favoring the Orthodox community – the fear of lawsuits and intimidation the VAAd has on you, has made your actions questionable if you are even capable of considering the needs of the ENTIRE town!” she said. “Jackson has never needed more than one chaplain and the only thing that has changed since the infancy of this beautiful town is the influx of an extremist religious group that has done nothing but blockbust, threaten with lawsuits and drain or public school budget.”
The author then went on a direct attack against Reina.
“I hope your term ends this year,” she said. “It only takes one man in power to change the future of a town and you won’t be remembered as the man who did great things only the one who helped destroy it! Your [sic] a used car salesman, ‘I’m from the streets of Brooklyn’, bull[expletive] lies that spew from your mouth is exhausting!”
“Sorry to say, but blind hatred and ignorance penned this letter, sadly this mentality is out there,” responded Councilman Ken Bressi.
“I heard there is a liaison being appointed,” said Yehuda Tomor, a Jackson resident. “I am hopeful that the person for such a job will be a local who knows the need of our community…but appointing a political figure from other backgrounds, in my opinion will be counterproductive.”
“Why is there a need for 8 chaplains?” asked resident Chris Kisseberth. “Do any of them have experience or certification in drug/overdose counseling? Because that seems to be the most crisis is drug o d [sic]”
“I want to thank you for the recept appointments that you made,” said resident Yossi Schwarz. “Every effort to reach out to the Jewish community is appreciated.”
Shwarz however, cautioned the mayor over the appointments of Wenger and Byrstn.
“I worry that the appointment of outsiders who are not Jackson residents will only exacerbate tensions at a time when hostilities are already high,” he added.
Both Rabbi Burnstein and Rabbi Naparstek thanked the mayor in writing for their appointments as chaplains in the town. Wenger and Burstyn did not.
Councilman Rob Nixon deflected concerns about the rabbinical appointments.
“The chaplains were appointed by the mayor and I would suggest you continue this conversation on your concerns with him directly,” he told residents who contacted him about the appointments.