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(RNS) — Ocean County, N.J., home to barely half a million people sprinkled along the Jersey Shore, is not the kind of place that normally pops up in celebrity tweets. But on Jan. 22, comedian Sarah Silverman jumped into a controversy raging in the suburban townships like Jackson, Lakewood and Toms River, retweeting a post from Tablet magazine about a video aimed at warning locals about Jews moving from New York to their comparatively affordable county.
A group with anonymous backers called Rise Up Ocean County circulated the video, which came to light last week in reporting by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Calling Orthodox Jews “purported villains … looking to move to the Central New Jersey suburbs,” it also juxtaposes depictions of ultra-Orthodox Jews with a paraphrase of a famous poem about the Holocaust: “First they came for my house, but I did not speak up,” a voice intones. “Then they came for my forests, but I did not speak up, because I thought I had no vested interests in the forests.”
Anybody - Videos - Perception - Anti-Semitism - Michael
“Anybody who would objectively watch the videos that are being put up would understand clearly why there would be a significant perception of anti-Semitism,” Michael Cohen, Eastern director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, told Religion News Service. “There are obviously here some individuals who have nefarious and anti-Semitic intentions and whose goal it is to incite the larger surrounding population, and that is truly worrisome.”
The question of what constitutes anti-Semitism is very much at the root of the ongoing story of Jewish families resettling in Ocean County. Since the turn of the century, Lakewood, about 90 minutes to either Philadelphia or Manhattan, has seen a population explosion, increased from 60,000 to 100,000 residents between 2000 and 2017. It is predicted to double again by 2030,...
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