March 23, 2023
Lakewood Meeting Paves Way for Stronger Community
At a meeting this past Wednesday at Lakewood High School, representatives from the Lakewood Police Department, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and the US Department of Justice met to discuss the community’s challenges, particularly law enforcement and criminal justice issues. Religious leaders were also in attendance, recognizing the importance of their role in community building and their ability to unite people. They stressed the significance of promoting mutual respect, understanding, and compassion to address the problems faced by the community.
Participants engaged in open discussions, sharing their perspectives and experiences to promote understanding and identify potential solutions. The event highlighted the importance of building relationships and trust among the community members, which is essential for creating a safe and harmonious environment. Overall, the meeting was a successful effort toward building a stronger, more cohesive community.
ReNew Jersey Debate: What Should We Do with Our $10 Billion Surplus?
Scores of frum businesspeople and organizations attended the NJ State Chamber of Commerce’s ReNew Jersey Business Summit and Expo in Atlantic City this past Tuesday and Wednesday. The event is New Jersey’s premier economic-development forum hosted by the NJ Chamber of Commerce.
The State of New Jersey has found itself in the midst of a debate regarding its $10 billion surplus. Attendees of the ReNew Jersey Business Summit and Expo hotly debated the best way to use the funds. Some participants at the summit argued that the surplus should be used to fuel business-focused initiatives that would generate additional revenue and help replenish the starving Unemployment Insurance fund rather than sit idle. Governor Phil Murphy maintained the surplus should provide a cushion for any potential economic downturns, which would enable the state to continue providing essential services and withstand any future decline in state revenue. Furthermore, having a larger surplus has contributed to recent credit upgrades for the state, which is a significant advantage. This has helped the state receive three credit upgrades in the past 12 months.
Lakewood Named New Jersey’s Boomtown
In an article highlighting the fastest-growing towns in each state across the country, GoBankingRates.com recognized Lakewood as New Jersey’s boomtown, as the following statistics show:
- Change in population
- 1 year: 21.28%
- 5 years: 22.08%
- 8 years: 31.59%
- Change in occupied housing units
- 1 year: 21.99%
- 5 years: 22.99%
- 8 years: 33.36%
- Change in owner-occupied housing units
- 1 year: 25.56%
- 5 years: 57.09%
- 8 years: 55.56%
Agudah Leadership Mission to Washington
A delegation of about 25 members of Agudath Israel of America’s lay leadership group, the national board of trustees, converged on the US Capitol to share concerns on a range of pressing issues, including the security of Israel, the alarming rise in global anti-Semitism, homeland security, school choice, and social services for the needy. Lakewood’s Rabbi Avi Schnall and Shlomo Schorr represented local interests.
Schorr spoke with assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke from the US Department of Justice about ongoing legal action on the municipal level, including zoning issues in Toms River and Jackson.
Schnall told the Voice, “The DOJ said they will continue to monitor…and ensure that people’s religious rights are being fairly protected.”
Schnall said they also spoke with secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas and other high-ranking Department of Homeland Security officials about nonprofit security grants.
Senator Tim Scott addressed the mission, noting that he and Senator Bill Cassidy authored the Educational Choice for Children Act, which will provide $10 billion for school choice by incentivizing private investment in education. He later tweeted, “I am thankful for the work Agudath Israel is doing on behalf of families and kids. Thank you for continuing to support important legislation like my Educational Choice for Children Act.”
NJ Congressman Josh Gottheimer Visits Lakewood, Tours BMG
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Financial Services & Homeland Security Committees, visited Lakewood last Tuesday. He took a tour of Bais Medrash Govoha with Lakewood committeeman Meir Lichtenstein and representatives of BMG. He was shown Bais Medrash Bais Yitzchok, and a discussion was held in the executive offices.
County Acknowledges School Funding Inadequacies
The county commissioners formally acknowledged this week school funding inadequacies for 16 municipalities in Ocean County, noting the $14.4 million loss to the Toms River school district and $6.3 million cut to Jackson Township’s schools. Lakewood is set to receive an increase in funding this year. The Commissioners also noted questions about the school-funding formula’s fairness and transparency while highlighting the fact that the state currently enjoys a $10 billion budget surplus.
Also this week, the Lakewood BOE held the first reading of the forthcoming 2023–2024 school year budget of $402,876,346. It will be evaluated prior to adoption on May 8. The proposed tax levy—the amount Lakewood BOE must raise to balance the budget after all other anticipated funding sources are exhausted—currently stands at $112,123,194.
For the past several years, the Lakewood BOE has relied on increasingly larger loans from the state to cover its exploding budget. For this year, the requested loan is $73,489,390. This would be a DOE Loan Against State Aid to enable the township to provide the mandated thorough and efficient education. It also includes a request from the Lakewood BOE to the commissioner of education to defer the repayment of prior year DOE Loans Against State Aid and audit recoveries for the 2023–2024 school year.
Lakewood Vaad Thanks R’ Aaron Lang for Lawsuit
Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg of the Lakewood Vaad penned a letter of congratulations to R’ Aaron Lang for his successful legal appeal against the New Jersey DOE.
“The Lakewood Vaad is pleased to offer a huge yasher ko’ach to our dear chaver Aaron Lang for his recent resounding win in his long-standing lawsuit against the New Jersey State Education Department in the NJ Appeals Court,” the letter reads. “By winning this case, he has finally established—by law—that Lakewood has been cheated by the state-funding formula for years in the amounts of state aid they allocated to the Lakewood Board of Education.
“In brief, Aaron, in collaboration with a distinguished Rutgers law professor, succeeded in establishing that the state drastically underfunded Lakewood by tens of millions of dollars in the funding formula by refusing to count the 50,000 talmidim/os in our hundreds of mosdos. It was clearly proven that while the state and district have the legal responsibility for transportation and special education services for the entire Lakewood community, they refused to count our students in their calculations for state aid. Hopefully, we expect that this huge win will fund the Lakewood School District properly and permanently, so that they can provide full and robust services to all of Lakewood’s children as required by law.
“On behalf of the entire kehillah, we offer our deep hakaras hatov and brachah that Aaron and his mishpachah should be gebentched with brachah and hatzlachah.”
AG Platkin: Crime Down in New Jersey
According to new data from the Attorney General’s Office, crime is actually down in New Jersey. Shootings are down 25 percent, and car theft is down by over 20 percent from when AG Matt Platkin took the helm.
Noting that his office had inherited a dramatic rise in crime, Platkin pointed to New Jersey’s tough concealed-carry laws as historically effective measures for reduced gun violence.
On auto theft, Platkin notes that his office has increased efforts with a statewide auto-theft task force which targets and attacks individuals who are leading auto-theft rings. “Some of these individuals may be stealing four to six cars a night,” he adds. “Taking one of them off the street is [saving] about thirty cars a week.”
Local Volunteers to Be Eligible for Tuition Incentives
To enhance the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical volunteers, Lakewood plans to utilize a state law that permits emergency volunteers to take advantage of the Volunteer Tuition Credit Program at no cost to the township.
The LFD has been struggling with dwindling numbers of volunteer firefighters.
Volunteers who agree to serve as members of a volunteer organization for a minimum of four years can receive tuition credit in the amount of $600 per year. The incentive is capped at $2,400 and is available not only to the volunteer, but also to their spouse or children, provided other eligibility requirements have been met. Courses must be taken at a participating institute of higher learning such as county colleges, county vocational schools, and county technical institutes.
Anti-Semitic Crimes on the Rise; AG Hosts Meeting in Lakewood
Hate crimes in the US rose almost 12 percent in 2021, according to a report released by the FBI this week. Half of all religiously motivated hate crimes were perpetrated against Jews.
The numbers are both “unique and disturbing,” according to Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino.
According to the final tallies, 64.5 percent of hate crime victims were targeted due to their race, ethnicity, or ancestry. Another 14 percent involved religious bias, with a full 7 percent of those perpetrated against Jewish victims.
The rise and focus of anti-Semitism have alarmed the upper echelons of NJ law enforcement. The NJ Attorney General’s Office Division on Civil Rights (DCR) held a public session this week for local residents to express their concerns and learn about what to do in the event of such a crime. The DCR deals with anti-Semitic-discrimination cases such as in Jackson and decides when investigations into anti-Semitic bias incidents should be pursued.
BMG Development Plan for Former GCU Campus Approved
A major development project at the site of Georgian Court University planned by Bais Medrash Govoha was considered at the Lakewood Planning Board meeting. The development will include three streets, six apartment buildings, playgrounds, and a childcare center with several large, undefined rooms.
The buildings will stand five stories tall and contain 100 apartments each. They will be designed for young couples and families, with mostly two-or-three bedroom units and access to playgrounds and gated yards. The apartments, buildings, and land will remain the property of BMG and will be rented to its talmidim or staff only. This is required to make the construction legal, as it will be zoned as a campus.
New streets will include extensions of Carey Street to the west and Cedarview Avenue southward across 14th Street.
The day-care center was awarded a $3 million federal grant, advocated for by Lakewood’s full congressional delegation. It will be able to serve 300 children and be fully outfitted with amenities and facilities. Another $2 million of federal funds will help pay for the public improvements.
New Limits for Childcare Subsidies Announced
New Jersey Cares for Kids (NJCK), a statewide program providing childcare subsidies to low- and moderate-income working parents, has released the 2023 income limits. The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey (CHS) administers the program in Ocean County.
The NJCK program aims to assist working parents in accessing quality childcare services. Through this program, eligible families receive financial assistance to cover the cost of childcare services provided by approved centers.
The income limits are as follows:
For more information, go to lnnnews.com/new-jersey-cares-for-kids-njck-announces-2023-income-limits-for-childcare-subsidies-03-2023.
US Lawmaker Pushing for Tougher Work Requirements for SNAP Beneficiaries
US Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota) has introduced the America Works Act, which amplifies work requirements for able-bodied adults who receive SNAP benefits.
“Work is the best pathway out of poverty,” Johnson said in a release. “Work requirements have proven to be effective, and people who can work should work. With more than 11 million open jobs, there are plenty of opportunities for SNAP recipients to escape poverty and build a better life.”
Currently, able-bodied adults without dependents aged 49 years or younger must participate in 20 hours a week of work, training, or education to receive SNAP benefits under federal law. The bill prevents states from filing for exemptions and also requires older SNAP recipients to work or lose benefits.
The Johnson bill raises the age for work requirements to 65, when recipients become eligible for Medicare. It also retains the requirement that limits them to a three-month limit on SNAP benefits unless they work 80 hours a month.
The bill has picked up a growing number of Republican sponsors.
Lakewood Township Holds Pre-Pesach Meeting
Lakewood Township officials held a meeting with leading community agencies to discuss preparations for the upcoming Pesach holiday. Topics discussed included coordinating road work, increased sanitation service, and where to hold approved chametz burning.
Attendees at the meeting included deputy mayor Menashe Miller; committeeman Meir Lichtenstein; members of Lakewood Police, Lakewood Fire Department, Hatzolah, Chaveirim, Shomrim, Ocean County Fire Marshalls, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Department; DPW chief Phil Roux; and representatives of the Lakewood Township Engineering Department and JCP&L.
The officials established large-scale increased sanitation collection for the week preceding Pesach and designated places for chametz burning on Erev Pesach. Additionally, the engineering department and JCP&L plan to use the days of Yom Tov to accomplish significant road and electrical work. JCP&L will replace several utility poles on 14th Street that are leaning dangerously. Power will not be cut during the work.
Bill Requiring Stricter Licensing for Contractors Awaits Senate Committee Hearing
A new bill sponsored by Assembly members Paul Moriarty, Raj Mukherji and Angela McKnight would create a nine-member New Jersey State Board of Home Improvement and Home Elevation Contractors which would consist of five home-improvement contractors, one home-elevation contractor, two members of the public, and one member appointed by the governor. It would establish a framework for experience and education requirements for contractors and a licensing system which renews every two years. Contractors without two years of experience would have to complete an apprenticeship or training program among other requirements. Similar protocol would be put in place for home-elevation contractors.
The Assembly bill has passed a full floor vote, and a twin Senate bill is awaiting a hearing before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
In New Jersey, hair stylists need 1,200 hours of instruction and to pass a state exam to get a license. Contractors, on the other hand, only need to register with the state and prove they have the required liability insurance.