JACKSON-A New Jersey town’s Republican organization is under fire and the target of two federal lawsuits claiming township officials here acted to prevent Orthodox Jews from moving to their community. In December, local Republican party leaders were condemned for their actions by the National GOP, State GOP and other state elected officials for statements made by club leadership on Facebook against the growing Orthodox Jewish community.
A recently released court transcript of a deposition by Jackson Township Councilman Ken Bressi, a Republican and a decorated U.S. Marine Vietnam War Veteran offers more insight into the inner workings of the Jackson Township Republican party’s plot to keep Orthodox Jews out of their community.
In a 250 page deposition, Bressi outlined what he claims was the blueprint to keep Jews from moving into the town from neighboring Lakewood Township. In that deposition, Bressi names Jackson Township Councilman Barry Calogero, who also serves as the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Executive Director for New Jersey. Calogero was appointed by President Trump’s administration to that position in December of 2017.
The Jackson Township governing body is the target of two federal civil rights lawsuits where plaintiffs, Agudath Israel of America claim the town is “plagued by anti-Semitism,” and Bressi’s deposition supports that claim.
Bressi has served on the towship’s governing body in some capacity since the 1990’s on the municipal council and township planning board.
Bressi’s deposition has already led to the resignation of Robert Nixon, a New Jersey State PBA lobbyist and Governor Phil Murphy appointee to the New Jersey School Development Authority in November, leaving a vacant seat on the five-member governing body.
In that deposition, Bressi alleged Nixon was the ringleader in a plot to keep Jews out of Jackson by championing a series of laws and ordinances that targeted the Orthodox Jewish Community affecting houses of worship, eruvs, religious dorms, and a series of actions against citizens that led to code enforcement actions against Orthodox Jews in the community. Those actions led to the filing of the lawsuit in federal court by Agudath Israel of America.
“I always thought Mr. Nixon or his background in the state and stuff and understanding of law and lobbying with the state and his involvement in government would be an excellent council person,” Bressi said of his former colleague. “When he got involved with the Orthodox stuff and everything else, I was surprised to see his attitude, especially being pulled by his nose by Jackson Strong.”
When asked by the lawyer, “And what do you understand his attitude to be?”
Bressi responded, “Stopping Jews…we have to stop this…we have to stop them from moving into town…and the efforts to try to find ways to stop them started getting out of line.”
He then was asked if he felt if Councilman Barry Calogero shared Nixon’s views, Bressi responded, “Yes.”
Calogero was asked to comment on the allegation made by Bressi, but refused to answer when asked on December 11th. Another opportunity was afforded to Calogero to respond to the allegation on December 12th, but he denied to comment. Bressi claimed that Nixon and Calogero worked closely with a group in town called “Jackson Strong” who spearheaded a campaign to urge residents not to sell their homes to Orthodox Jews.
“Barry Calogero and Rob Nixon basically would not make a move without getting approval by them [Jackson Strong] if they want something done, they will do it for them,” Bressi said, adding that when ordinances or changes to ordinances were proposed and Jackson Strong did not agree, “They would go beserk because Jackson Strong did not want it.”
Bressi noted that when the town council was forced to vote on a state-mandated ordinance by the Council of Affordable Housing, both Nixon and Calogero voted no.
Councilman Bressi alleged that the anti-Semitism within his party ran deep, saying this even his former running mates, Andrew Kern and Alex Sauickie were anti-Semitic and that both men are aligned with the anti-Orthodox development group Jackson Strong.
“You heard negative statements about the Orthodox Jewish community from Nixon and Calogero?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes,” Bressi said.