TRENTON — Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has called for monitoring of comments on the controversial Facebook group "Rise Up Ocean County" -- which critics say is a home for anti-Semitic sentiment targeting the county's Orthodox Jews.

Rise Up made its presence known in December with a Facebook page and trailers promoting a film called OC230, which it says is overdevelopment in Lakewood. The group predicts that the township's population will double by 2030 to 230,000 and urges people "rise up" and "stop it now."

The group's organizers have never publicly identified themselves, but have said frequently their intentions are messages are not anti-Semitic. Their Facebook page has nearly 10,000 followers.

Friday, on the Facebook page -- which leads off with an image saying "the silent majority must be heard lest we become the minority" -- Rise Up said a letter from Grewal to Facebook was "misguided and full of innuendos and half-truths."

"We concur with the Attorney General that there is a rising tide of hate across our country and here in New Jersey," Rise Up wrote. "We disagree with his assertion that any of that originates from within Rise Up Ocean County."

The OAG's Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer says in a letter to Facebook that Rise Up's page  “appears to have been created in late 2018 to oppose what it calls the overdevelopment of Lakewood, New Jersey, by Orthodox Jews," according to an announcement from Grewal's office.

"Among other assertions, (Rise Up Ocean County) states that the quality of life in Ocean County is 'under assault' and that a group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis 'who control the fate of Lakewood' is leading an intended 'colonization' of the township," Grewal's office said.

Rise Up in its response says its focus "has been and remains the environmental destruction of Ocean County, the high-density and almost lawless over development in and around Lakewood, the draining of public school resources to support private religious schools and the stress placed on our already crumbling infrastructure. All of these are indeed quality of life issues for Ocean County residents."

It also defends statements made on its page about the Lakewood Vaad, a religious community leadership council, saying it "exercises incredible power over the Lakewood
community" but that "given the time is of the essence manner in which we must respond, a full explanation of that influence can be provided at a later date."

It also denies the group has incited violence, and says it took down a poem parodying the poem "First They Came ..." that described Nazi oppression.  The post parodying the poem was made "encouraging individuals 'not to be silent in the face of Orthodox Jews moving to Lakewood,'" the AG's office wrote.

Rise Up said in its response that despite its efforts to moderate its community, "occasionally things slip through," and that it would be willing to delete comments of the type the OAG's office noted.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, has called on local municipalities to publicl denounce Rise Up.

"The trailers that they've sent out to advertise (Rise Up's film) so far have had some very disturbing anti-Semitic content in them," Michael Cohen of the Wiesenthal Center said previously. "These are not open for interpretation. It's very clear what they're saying."

The Ocean County Freeholders denounced the group by name at a meeting earlier this year. Toms River adopted a resolution denouncing hateful comments more generally, but did not identify the group by name.

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