TRENTON-Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police said on Friday that he will not tolerate acts of Anti-Semitism against the Orthodox Jewish community in and around Lakewood Township. This comes as police on Friday arrested a Howell man for making threats of physical violence against Orthodox Jews in Lakewood.
Lakewood is currently the epicenter of the Ocean County coronavirus outbreak and many in the community now blame the Orthodox Jewish community after videos of large gatherings and weddings were published on social media.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy stated those events were the exception and not the norm in and around Lakewood.
The Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community as, all Orthodox Jewish communities have always been more susceptible to viruses and disease, according to one physician in Lakewood because of the very communal aspect of their culture.
“We congregate, we pray in groups, we study in groups,” the physician said. “There’s always an inherent risk in our community in times like this.”
Religious and community leaders in Lakewood have put a halt to group prayers and have shut down schools and shuls (houses used to pray).
Many outside of the community feel the damage has already been done and are fearful about how that is going to affect them. Many are taking to social media in nearby Jackson and Toms River where local officials have done very little, at least in public to offer solutions to address the fact that Lakewood Township has an irregularly high rate of infection. Although Lakewood has a larger population of both neighboring Toms River and Jackson, the rate of infection is nearly triple that of the neighboring towns when factoring infection rate per thousand people.
The infection rate in Lakewood is .23%. In Jackson Township that rate is 0.11%. In Toms River the infection rate is .08%. In neighboring Brick Township, the infection rate is .06%.
This week, the state-led effort to bring quarantine compliance to Lakewood has been working according to Callahan.
“I have been working with Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer and our community partners to address recent activities in Lakewood Township,” Callahan said. “While there have been a few instances of group gatherings that were addressed by law enforcement, the vast majority of the community understands the importance of social distancing and are complying with the executive order.”
He also said that attacks or threats of attacks against the community will not be tolerated.
“Law enforcement in our State have worked tirelessly to build relationships with our communities, and we will not let the actions of a few determine how a city is viewed,” he said. “Acts of Anti-Semitism will not be tolerated, and any reports will be thoroughly investigated. The COVID-19 virus affects all residents of New Jersey, and it will take a cooperative, whole-community effort to flatten the curve.”
Ocean County’s elected Board of Chosen Freeholders have been silent on the matter as have the mayors and elected officials in neighboring towns in Jackson and Toms River which also have large populations of Orthodox Jewish residents. While the common belief among many who blame the Orthodox Jewish community for the outbreak is that those numbers reflect the higher percentage of Orthodox Jews living in the community, neither county or state COVID-19 figures validate those beliefs as personal information data is not publicly released by those agencies.
On social media, people have said they are afraid and want to see more action by local officials, to reassure the public that necessary steps are being taken to curb the spread of the virus which is starting to kill people in Ocean County and Monmouth County as the state death toll climbed over 100 this week.