‘Sickening’ displays of anti-Semitism after welfare fraud arrests in Lakewood
LAKEWOOD — Vandals posted a banner containing an anti-Jewish slur on a Holocaust memorial in front of a local synagogue less than a week after several residents of Lakewood's Orthodox Jewish community were charged with welfare fraud.
Photos posted online Sunday by the state chapter of the Anti-Defamation League show the banner covering the memorial in Lakewood. A message on the covering included an ethnic slur for Jewish people and they "will not divide us." Underneath that is bloodandsoil.org, the website for a white nationalist group.
Also this week, Anti-Semetic fliers have been seen around town, referencing the same group, complaining of "thieving Jews"" — an apparent reference to the welfare fraud arrests.
Detective Lt. Gregory Staffordsmith of the Lakewood Police Department said authorities were alerted to the issue just before noon on Sunday after a call from a rabbi at Congregation Son of Israel.
Attorney General Christopher Porrino retweed the ADL's post about the incidents, calling them "disgusting" and saying that a $10,000 reward was available for information that could lead to a conviction for bias crimes. Porrino did not elaborate on the possible charges those involved in this specific incident might face.
The group listed on the fliers and banners has been associated with other anti-Semitic acts in New Jersey. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, fliers were spread around Princeton University's campus with other hateful messages.
Vanguard America, the organization that runs bloodandsoil.org, also makes several references to the Lakewood arrests on its Twitter feed. An email message sent by New Jersey 101.5 Monday asking about its involvement in the fliers and banner had not yet been returned.
Seven married couples who live in Lakewood, including a rabbi and his wife, are facing charges they misrepresented their incomes to get a combined $2 million in public welfare benefits. Three couples were arrested late Tuesday in Lakewood. Another four couples, including Rabbi Zalmen Sorotzkin, of Congregation Lutzk, and his wife, Tzipporah, were arrested Monday.
The couples eventually were released without bail after making initial court appearances. Prosecutors say they failed to disclose income from numerous sources on applications for Medicaid, housing, Social Security and food assistance benefits.
The state and federal investigation centers on Lakewood, which is home to a large and growing ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Lakewood is the state's fastest growing town and has more than 100 private religious schools. The population increase has intensified concern over how public money is spent and sparked complaints from neighboring communities that say they face overly aggressive solicitation from real estate agents looking to find homes for the Jewish community.
New Jersey's chapter of the Anti-Defamation League tweeted Sunday, saying that town officials, residents and community leaders "must offer full throated condemnation of this anti-Semitic attack."
Staffordsmith said the banner is being investigated by the Lakewood police as well as the Ocean County Sheriff's Department CSI Unit and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Criminal Computer Crimes Unit and the New Jersey State Police. The Department of Justice has also been notified about the matter, he said.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Charles Messer at 732-363-0200.
— With reporting by Adam Hochron and by the Associated Press
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