Employee lobs complaints at Orthodox community

Staff Writer

Employee lobs complaints
at Orthodox community
Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — David Duckaroff is a township employee, but he is also a resident. At the Dec. 4 Township Committee meeting, Duckaroff, who said he is Jewish, told his employers exactly how he feels about some of the the Orthodox Jewish citizens he serves.

"For many years, people have been under the impression that Orthodox Jews are deeply religious people who live perfect lives," Duckaroff said during the meeting’s public forum. "Au contraire."

Holding up a photograph while at the microphone, Duckaroff said, "This is [an Orthodox Jewish man] who lives one block west of my home. In 1997, [he] was convicted of endangering the welfare of a female child under 13. [He is] classified is a Tier II moderate sex offender. I prefer that [he] not move because I would prefer to know where he is than not."

Duckaroff then mentioned the name of a nonprofit organization in New York City which he said is a charity dedicated to helping Orthodox Jews who have AIDS. He noted that the JACS Foundation helps Orthodox Jews who are drug addicts and alcoholics.

Duckaroff, who works in the Code Enforcement Unit in the Department of Code Enforcement and Zoning, said he sends code violation notices to people — including Orthodox Jews — who have turned their property into a garbage dump.

"People who don’t like hearing this can do one thing — clean up your act," he said.

Duckaroff’s displeasure did not extend only to the way some Orthodox Jews maintain their premises, but to the duplicity he alleged some committed in the number of homes they listed as their primary residence.

"According to the computer system maintained by the county clerk, Jewish people I write to have declared that their mailing address is the same at each address of each owned property. Such lying makes it difficult to enforce the law," he said.

He also took issue with Orthodox Jews who he said come to his home seeking charity.

"I’m a charitable person, but I don’t give money to total strangers. In the future, I’ll send those people to Rabbi (Moshe) Weisberg," he said.

Weisberg is a spokesman for Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish community.

Duckaroff told the Tri-Town News that his comments at the committee meeting were made in response to remarks Weisberg had made in the media suggesting that several local activists were responsible for creating the environment that culminated last month in swastikas being painted on several Orthodox Jewish homes in town.

Duckaroff said he does not condone anti-Semitism, but said some of the issues and incidents he noted that involve Orthodox Jews could be a reason why some people target those individuals.

"The point is none of these people is all good or all bad," he said. "We all want the same things, but too many people want only for themselves and not for others. If you think hearing about [others] is idealistic nonsense, why does your religion preach this?"

Mayor Marta Harrison responded to Duckaroff’s question.

"Each individual is responsible, as individuals, for their sins or transgressions," she said. "While there is certainly no intention, perhaps, on the part of the speaker to encourage swastikas and encourage cross burnings and encourage acts of hatred, we can, through careless use of words, inadvertently encourage those that really need no encouragement."

Committeeman Charles Cunliffe said he felt a bit more strongly than the mayor did about Duckaroff’s comments. He said he had consulted Harrison as well as Township Attorney Steven Secare in order to discuss what to do about the matter.

"We decided not to stifle public comment, but it was a little hard to sit up here and listen to that," he said. "I don’t think there’s anything you can [say] that would justify … painting a swastika on somebody’s home. I think that the comments were offensive and, in fact, almost bizarre in nature. I think we have to … be a lot more careful when we speak."

Harrison had the final word on the subject that night.

"God bless America, where all of us can come up to the microphone, make offensive remarks, call the mayor names and know that when you walk out to the hallway by the police station nothing’s going to happen to you," she said. "I say God bless America because it is your right, but it’s nice if people will remember to exercise their rights responsibly. We have a very strict policy, but you can say anything you want during your four minutes, no matter how personally offensive to us or the community at large. It’s right that we should permit it, but not all the things that are said are right that they should be said. People should examine their conscience and behave responsibly – and that’s it."

Duckaroff promised that would not be it.

He told the Tri-Town News on Monday that he was incensed by Cunliffe’s attempt to prevent him from speaking out and said he intended to use his four minutes at the committee’s next meeting to let the members of the governing body know how he felt.

The committee will meet tonight at 7:30 in meeting room A on the second floor of the municipal building.