Friday, November 25, 2005

Letter on lakewood column

Another letter in the A.P.P. responding to the hate spewed column by the Rev. Nunn:

Regarding the Nov. 18 opinion piece by the Rev. Kevin Nunn, "Preferential treatment in Lakewood affects entire community," it is undeniable that the influx of Orthodox Jews into Lakewood has altered the community, and old-time residents may regret the changes to the town where they grew up...
Nunn does not approve of freedom of mobility. "By allowing this to continue, by 2010 the demographics will have shifted so greatly that what once was a diverse community will be a predominantly Orthodox Jewish community," he wrote.
In other words, demographic change is bad and must be stopped. This sentiment was undoubtedly shared by many who participated in "white flight" in decades past. It was nasty when applied to blacks moving into predominantly white areas and is equally nasty when applied to other minorities, including Orthodox Jews, who are moving into areas that are not "their own."
Nor does Nunn look kindly on freedom of religion. "Our children are affected due to the private schools that exclude the rest of the children within the community," he writes. Does he believe it is exclusionary policies that prevent non-Jewish parents from spending $3,000 per child per year to have their children study Jewish culture eight hours a day?
Orthodox Jews believe it takes years of intense schooling to pass on a voluminous, ancient tradition, and they are willing to assume crushing tuition payments to achieve this.
Free commerce is also a problem. Nunn says he is appalled that "businesses are being bought. People are offered money to move out of their homes." He does not claim that undue pressure is brought to bear or that Orthodox Jews are artificially driving down the prices of local businesses. No, what bothers him is that homes and businesses are being sold to Orthodox Jews. The fact that a non-Jewish homeowner may want to sell her house at triple the purchase price before the nationwide housing bubble bursts is irrelevant.
Nunn even objects to the freedom of communities to provide charitable services to their members. The existence of the Hatzolah ambulance service, funded by the Orthodox community and staffed by volunteers, is attributed to an Orthodox desire "(not to) defile their sick with the blood of our sick." Does this mean church-sponsored soup kitchens that don't provide kosher food are expressing a desire not to defile their silverware with Jewish saliva? Nonsense. Individuals have the right to define themselves as "communities" based on shared interests, religion or anything else, and they have the right to provide services to their communities without being accused of malicious motives.
The attack on Hatzolah is especially unfortunate given that Deputy Mayor Meir Lichtenstein, a Hatzolah member, saved the life of a member of Nunn's Lakewood Improvement Association at a recent township meeting.Nunn's piece is replete with exaggeration and misinformation.
He asserts that Orthodox Jews enter hospitals through separate doors. Actually, Orthodox Jews do not activate electric devices on their Sabbath, so they enter through manual doors one day a week. Surely Nunn is not suggesting that an Orthodox child who is admitted for an emergency appendectomy late Friday afternoon must spend the weekend alone."Luxuries are afforded such as tax-exempt status for synagogues." Religious and other nonprofit institutions have special tax status in this country. Is Nunn the leader of a church? If so, what is its tax status?
"The preferential treatment toward the Orthodox Jewish community . . . has created . . . discrimination concerning equal housing." Lakewood's affordable housing program, initiated by the Orthodox community, involves NJ HAND, the Lakewood Housing Authority and STEPS (Solutions to End Poverty Soon), and will benefit all segments of Lakewood's population.The only point in the entire piece that may have some validity is the comment that Orthodox Jews rarely greet non-Jews when they pass on the street. It would be nice to keep a friendly, small-town flavor even as Lakewood grows, and all residents should display good manners. This means that Orthodox residents should smile at their non-Jewish neighbors. It also means that non-Jews should refrain from comments like, "They're breeding! The Jews are breeding!" when a young Orthodox mother walks down the street with her infant. Remarks like that one, which I have overheard, tend to have a chilling effect on public discourse.
Nunn's ideal society is one in which an individual's freedom to move, educate his children, sell a home, buy a business, define his own "community," create a volunteer organization or offer culturally sensitive services to customers must meet Nunn's standard of social good.
I prefer a society in which people can make choices of which others disapprove, subject to the Constitution and the law of the land. Fortunately, we do not live in a totalitarian state. We live in the United States of America. And if Nunn exercises his freedom to move in next door, while I may not be thrilled with his choice, I will bring him a cake.
Nechama A.
LAKEWOOD
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 12:23 PM

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