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In 2016 Brandon Jacobs, a public works and tax collector’s office employee in Wall Township, filed a lawsuit against his Monmouth County municipality documenting a series of anti-semitic offenses. In the suit he said he “endured having his co-workers and superiors continually barrage him with anti-semitic comments on a near-daily basis.” His examples included:
- Employees told Jacobs he should have numbers tattooed on his arm, like the Nazis who tattooed prisoners in concentration camps with numbers during the Holocaust.
- Employees asked Jacobs why he “killed Jesus” and told him he could get things cheaper because he was Jewish.
- A former recreation director who resigned in May 2016 routinely yelled “mazel tov” at Jacobs and called him a “golem,” a Hebrew term for a non-human creature.
- Co-workers and supervisors called Jacobs a “f-cking Jew,” a “Cheap Jeward,” “Mr. Money Bags,” “my big Jewish Buddy” and “Jewbacca,” a reference to Jacobs’ affinity for “Star Wars.”
- When Jacobs’ job duties were changed to include janitorial duties, he was called the “Town Hall Jew, I mean Janitor.”
- Employees left Nazi propaganda on Jacobs’ desk.
Wall Township settled Jacobs’s suit for $1.25 million and a non-disclosure agreement but, as the Asbury Park Press’s Joe Strupp explains, “the town has agreed to millions of dollars more in settlements with former employees, who filed their own acrimonious lawsuits alleging similar discriminatory behavior by their colleagues at town hall.”
What’s going on in Wall? For starters, this is the same town where in the 1920’s the Ku Klux Klan built a community called “The Pleasure Seekers Association, the same town where 25 years ago students at Wall High School distributed an “offensive 20-page underground paper containing numerous derogatory remarks about as many as 200 students, ridiculing them in a variety of disparaging ways, and using racial, ethnic and sexual slurs, as well as pornographic images,” the same school district that made worldwide news when a teacher was reprimanded for removing MAGA images from the high school yearbook and where currently the district is in crisis after sordid allegations that older high school students on the football team hazed, bullied, and sodomized younger teammates.
How bad is it? The Wall school board just stopped live-streaming meetings because at the last one parents were shouting “F–k you!” at board members.
Children inhale hate like they inhale air. Suzy Hansen, reflecting on her childhood in Wall, writes, “the world was white, Christian; the world was us.” And,
You have a town people say is Jewish. You have a town people say is Black. You have a town people say is white. There was just this sense of, we live with our own. A lot of these things are stereotypes, but that was the mentality.
Look, it’s way too easy, from my perch in a Central Jersey town blessed with diversity, to, well, wall off Wall, isolate its xenophobic, racist, antisemitic, bullying history as some sort of Jersey glitch.
But Wall behavior isn’t isolated to Wall. In just the last week, local news outlets have reported on a variety of troubling behavior within NJ schools, and not just in South Jersey (disproportionately white and Trump-ish). Here’s a short list:
- Former Holmdel schools Superintendent Leroy Seitz, once Chris Christie’s poster boy for overpayment of superintendents, faces charges of “sexual harassment by his former secretary for a variety of inappropriate comments, including allegedly joking about pedophiles on staff and receiving lap dances from women, according to a lawsuit filed this week.”
- Randolph Board of Education’s meetings have turned angry and contentious after members voted to shorten the two-day Rosh Hashanah holiday to one day, shortly after it reversed a decision to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. A parent described the decision as “culture cleansing.”
- At Union High School, Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor said the high school “is experiencing incidences of physical violence as students attempt to resolve disputes.”
- At Newark’s Lincoln High School, an Uncommon charter, students are protesting the treatment of Black teachers.
- Then there’s Central Regional School District, where the school board recently filed ethics charges against two new board members who posted blatantly racist images and captions on social media.
Our schools are a reflection of our homes and our communities. Adults exhale air and children breathe it in. And, no, it’s not all on Trump–he’s the symptom, not the cause. Physician, heal thyself.