Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson says he will bring Rabbis and African American clergy together within the next 48 hours to discuss an incident at a local community forum earlier this week where Montclair NAACP vice president James Harris launched a tirade aimed at Hasidic Jews and for claiming that poor people are being priced out of the town.
“I cannot overstate how much these leaders have committed to addressing the incendiary cloud hanging over our community at the moment,” Jackson said in a statement released on Saturday evening. “Recent developments have made it abundantly clear that there is much work to be done, even in our beloved Montclair.”
The forum was organized by Councilwoman Renee Baskerville, who invited Harris to speak and then sat silently while Harris launched his anti-Semitic attacks.
Baskerville seems to have gone into hiding and has not responded to six phone calls and text messages beginning at 5:12 PM on Friday.
Harris said that that the Jewish community in Lakewood “controls” the town at the expense of black and Latino students and described Hasidic Jews as “folks in long black suits and curly locks” who are buying properties and victimizing people of color in Lakewood and Jersey City.
Harris echoed comments made in a Facebook post penned by Jersey City School Board member Joan Terrell-Paige, who questioned why the shooting, which authorities deemed a hate crime, was receiving attention while other violent incidents in the area received little such attention.
“Is there a situation where some lives are worth more than others’ lives? Because I didn’t see the governor … hanging up there … when these other shootings go down, so I think that we have to have an honest conversation,” he said. “Not only are all lives important, but the response to murder has to be just as intense.”