When you talk about Lakewood, especially in surrounding communities, you are likely to spark a firestorm and more so than ever over recent incidents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ocean County’s largest town is also the fastest growing in New Jersey with most of that due to an ever-expanding Orthodox Jewish community which now makes up about half of its population of 103,000.  Estimates are that number could reach 140,000 by the end of this decade which would put an even greater strain on an infrastructure that appears to be bursting at the seams.

If you have ever driven on Route 9 in the afternoon than you know the definition of the word “nightmare.”  The situation regarding Lakewood public schools is a story into itself and one that has left students, parents and staff shortchanged.

There clearly has been growing tension in recent years with non-Jewish residents of nearby towns, including Toms River and Jackson.  Much of that has to do with claims that some Orthodox Jews have been somewhat aggressive in their bid to buy real estate in those and other communities as they seek more space with Lakewood becoming so crowded.

All of this has resulted in a growing wave of anti-Semitism in Ocean County which is often displayed on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Now fast forward to the most recent developments in which there have been several instances in Lakewood of social gatherings that violate the state mandates during this pandemic.  On the surface, they appear to be ones in which offenders did not feel the law applied to them and that is a concern when you consider that about 40% of all positive COVID-19 cases in Ocean County come from a community in which many live in close proximity to one another.

Government and law enforcement officials have publicly stated that most residents are abiding by the rules and like elsewhere in New Jersey there have been a few isolated illegal gatherings which were broken up.  Others believe it’s a pattern of non-compliance from those in a community who live and play by their own rules.

However, there is a problem and it’s growing.  Mention Lakewood just about anywhere and you’re not going to get a positive response deserved or not.  Real or imagined negative stereotypes lead to anti-Semitism which leads to hate and that leads to problems.  Every effort has to be made to prevent this from getting out of control because in the end everyone loses.


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