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NJ township will pay $575,000 to settle lawsuit alleging discrimination against Orthodox Jews

(JTA) — New Jersey’s Jackson Township has settled a state lawsuit alleging that it used local ordinances to discriminate against Orthodox Jews, after settling both a federal complaint and a private lawsuit based on similar claims.

In the settlement with the state attorney general, Jackson Township will pay $575,000 in penalties and restitution funds, repeal the ordinances that allegedly target Orthodox Jews and adopt new policies and procedures that protect religious freedom. It will also form a multicultural committee composed of residents that will meet quarterly to combat discrimination, and local officials will undergo anti-discrimination training.

“No one in New Jersey should face discrimination for their religious beliefs,” Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a statement. “We are firmly committed to eliminating discrimination and bias across our state, and we expect local leaders to comply with our robust anti-discrimination laws.”

The settlement comes after years in which officials and community groups in and around Jackson have been accused of trying to push out Orthodox residents. Jackson borders the heavily Orthodox city of Lakewood, and Orthodox Jews have moved into the surrounding towns as Lakewood’s population has swelled.

Activists organized to oppose the arrival of the new residents, including one group that repurposed a famous anti-Nazi poem to cast Orthodox Jews as a threat to the area’s quality of life. In 2019 and 2020, there were multiple instances of swastika graffiti on Jewish-owned property in Jackson.

Local Jewish leaders accused the activists as well as local officials of antisemitism, with a synagogue suing Jackson in 2014 for barring it from building a girls high school. In 2020, the U.S. Justice Department sued Jackson, alleging that it banned religious boarding schools to keep out Orthodox residents. Jackson settled the federal suit last year for $200,000 and a repeal of the boarding school ban. It settled the synagogue’s suit in January for $1.35 million.

The state attorney general filed its suit in 2021, alleging that the township had adopted discriminatory zoning and land use ordinances as well as enforcement practices that targeted Orthodox Jews. The suit said those practices violated New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law.

According to the complaint, which was filed by the the previous state attorney general and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the township engaged in discriminatory surveillance of the homes of Orthodox Jews, hoping to spot prayer gatherings that contravened local ordinances. (The city of Miami Beach in Florida recently agreed to pay a single congregation $1.3 million after facing a lawsuit over similar allegations.)

The complaint alleged that the township applied land use laws and zoning ordinances unfairly to inhibit the construction of yeshivas and dormitories as well as sukkahs, the temporary huts built for the fall festival of Sukkot. And it said the town effectively banned the creation of an eruv, or symbolic boundary made of string that allows observant Jews to carry items outdoors on Shabbat.

Under the terms of the settlement, Jackson is required to notify the state of any decision or regulation that would affect local religious land use or practice. The state will monitor the township’s compliance with the settlement requirements for three years.

“Religious freedom is a bedrock principle of American democracy, and we are deeply committed to protecting it here in New Jersey,” Sundeep Iyer, director of the state Division on Civil Rights, said in a statement. “As hate and bias – including against the Jewish community – continue to rise, it is critical that we call out religious discrimination when we see it, and it is especially important that we hold public officials accountable when they treat people differently based on their faith.”


The post NJ township will pay $575,000 to settle lawsuit alleging discrimination against Orthodox Jews appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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US House Passes $95 Billion Ukraine, Israel Aid Package, Sends to Senate

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to members of the media at the Capitol building, April 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ken Cedeno

The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday with broad bipartisan support passed a $95 billion legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, over bitter objections from Republican hardliners.

The legislation now proceeds to the Democratic-majority Senate, which passed a similar measure more than two months ago. U.S. leaders from Democratic President Joe Biden to top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell had been urging embattled Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring it up for a vote.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure next week, sending it to Biden to sign into law.

The bills provide $60.84 billion to address the conflict in Ukraine, including $23 billion to replenish U.S. weapons, stocks and facilities; $26 billion for Israel, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian needs, and $8.12 billion for the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his thanks, saying U.S. lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track.”

“The vital U.S. aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger,” Zelensky said on X.

It was unclear how quickly the new military funding for Ukraine will be depleted, likely causing calls for further action by Congress.

Biden, who had urged Congress since last year to approve the additional aid to Ukraine, said in a statement: “It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia.”

The vote on passage of the Ukraine funding was 311-112. But significantly, 112 Republicans opposed the legislation, with only 101 in support.

“Mike Johnson is a lame duck… he’s done,” far-right Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told reporters afterward.

She has been a leading opponent of helping Ukraine in its war against Russia and has taken steps that threaten to remove Johnson from office over this issue. Greene stopped short of doing so on Saturday, however.

During the vote, several lawmakers waved small Ukrainian flags as it became clear that element of the package was headed to passage. Johnson warned lawmakers that was a “violation of decorum.”

Meanwhile, the House’s actions during a rare Saturday session put on display some cracks in what generally is solid support for Israel within Congress. Recent months have seen leftist Democrats express anger with Israel‘s government and its conduct of the war in Gaza.

But Saturday’s vote, in which the Israel aid was passed 366-58, had 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans in opposition.

Passage of the long-awaited legislation was closely watched by U.S. defense contractors, who could be in line for huge contracts to supply equipment for Ukraine and other U.S. partners.

Johnson this week chose to ignore ouster threats by hardline members of his fractious 218-213 majority and push forward the measure that includes Ukraine funding as it struggles to fight off a two-year Russian invasion.

The unusual four-bill package also includes a measure that includes a threat to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok and the potential transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine.

Some hardline Republicans voicing strong opposition to further Ukraine aid argued the United States can ill afford it given its rising $34 trillion national debt. They have repeatedly raised the threat of ousting Johnson, who became speaker in October after his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted by party hardliners.

“It’s not the perfect legislation, it’s not the legislation that we would write if Republicans were in charge of both the House, the Senate, and the White House,” Johnson told reporters on Friday. “This is the best possible product that we can get under these circumstances to take care of these really important obligations.”

Representative Bob Good, chair of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, told reporters on Friday that the bills represent a “slide down into the abyss of greater fiscal crisis and America-last policies that reflect Biden and (Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck) Schumer and (House Democratic leader Hakeem) Jeffries, and don’t reflect the American people.”

But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who carries huge influence in the party, on April 12 voiced support for Johnson and in a Thursday social media post said Ukraine’s survival is important for the U.S.

The post US House Passes $95 Billion Ukraine, Israel Aid Package, Sends to Senate first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Amid Increased Pressure, Hamas Leadership Reportedly Mulls Leaving Qatar

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani makes statements to the media with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Doha, Qatar, Oct. 13, 2023. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsThe political leadership mulls moving its base of operations out of Qatar, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. It is understood the Gulf state is increasingly pressurizing the terror chiefs to accept a hostage-for-truce deal with Israel.

The report quoted an unnamed Middle Eastern official as saying the Hamas politburo chiefs were mulling a move to Oman.

“The talks have already stalled again with barely any signs or prospects for them to resume any time soon, and distrust is rising between Hamas and the negotiators,” the source was quoted as saying.

“The possibility of the talks being upended entirely is very real,” another Arab official told WSJ.

The post Amid Increased Pressure, Hamas Leadership Reportedly Mulls Leaving Qatar first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Abbas Threatens Ties with U.S. After UN Membership Bid Veto

PA President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank August 18, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/Pool

i24 NewsIn a recent interview with the official WAFA news agency, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a stern warning, indicating that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would reassess its bilateral relations with the United States following Washington’s veto of a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership.

While Abbas has made similar threats in the past without following through, his latest remarks underscore growing frustration within the Palestinian leadership over perceived U.S. support for Israel and the ongoing conflict in the region.

In the interview, conducted in Arabic and later translated, Abbas criticized the US for its stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He accused the Biden administration of siding with the occupation and failing to uphold international law. Abbas emphasized that while the world supports Palestinian rights, the US continues to provide unwavering support to Israel, including military aid that “contributes to the suffering of Palestinians.”

Abbas’s remarks reflect a deepening rift between the Palestinian leadership and the US, particularly over issues such as Israel’s annexation policies and the status of Jerusalem.

He lamented the US’s abandonment of its promises and commitments, particularly regarding the two-state solution and achieving peace in the region.

The PA leader also highlighted the significance of Jerusalem, emphasizing its status as a red line that cannot be crossed. While underscoring the city’s Islamic and Christian sanctities, Abbas did not acknowledge Judaism’s historical ties to Jerusalem.

The post Abbas Threatens Ties with U.S. After UN Membership Bid Veto first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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