The Forward reports:
Earlier this month the sensitivity of the Orthodox community came to the fore after a local black reverend wrote an opinion essay in the Asbury Park Press, complaining about the "great disparity and favoritism of the Lakewood Township Committee's preferential treatment toward the Orthodox Jewish community."
In response, the Lakewood Vaad issued a ban on speaking to the Asbury Park newspaper.
Community groups have been claiming for several years that the Orthodox receive more than their fair share of municipal services. In 2003, a public school advocacy group sued the Lakewood Board of Education for providing gender-separated bussing to students attending Orthodox Jewish day schools. That suit was dismissed.
Earlier this year, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union released a study showing that the Orthodox community used a disproportionate amount of the school district's special-education resources. [Perhaps this is due to the high incidence of metzitza b'peh, the dangerous oral suctioning of the open circumcision wound practiced by many haredim, including in Lakewood. MBP is known to transmit herpes, causing brain damage and even death. -- FM] Those findings are being investigated by the state department of education.
Several of Lakewood's non-Jewish leaders rejected the claim that the Orthodox community received preferential treatment. But they did say that the Orthodox community had organizational capabilities that no other ethnic group in Lakewood possesses.
"When low-income housing becomes available, they know how to get it," said Reverend Gary Stiegler, president of the Lakewood Clergy Association, a group of some 30 local religious leaders, which Orthodox leaders have declined to join. "It's not as much their problem as those who don't know how to do it."
Stiegler said that for the congregants at his Lutheran church, the cohesion of the Orthodox community is unnerving because of the swift way in which new Orthodox Jews have come to Lakewood, totally changing the character of streets and neighborhoods in a few years.
"Is there some way that the Orthodox community could begin to sense in some small way what it is like to live in a town where everything has changed since your childhood?" Stiegler asked. "My sense is that they really don't care what we think."
And now Lakewood has its first haredi mayor, not such a big deal because the mayor isn't elected – he's chosen by his fellow councilmen. For the full report on that, read on.