A Jersey City school board member who suggested that aggressive real estate practices from Orthodox Jews provoked last week's deadly anti-Semitic shooting is facing growing calls to resign—and a small smattering of support from some in the black community.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Joan Terrell-Paige decried the "brutes" who had moved into the Greenville section of Jersey City, a historically black neighborhood that's seen an influx of ultra-Orthodox Jews in recent years.
“Where was all this faith and hope when Black homeowners were threatened, intimidated, and harassed by I WANT TO BUY YOUR HOUSE brutes of the jewish community,” wrote Terrell-Paige, who is black. “They brazenly came on the property of Ward F Black homeowners and waved bags of money.”
She added that the killers, who are believed to be linked to the fringe Black Hebrew Israelite movement, were sending a message that warranted further examination. According to authorities, David Anderson and Francine Graham specifically targeted the Jewish deli in an anti-Semitic "act of terror." They killed three people inside the store, as well as a Jersey City detective at a separate location, officials said.
Asked by Politico earlier this week if she regretted the comments, Terrell-Paige responded: "No I don't."
Both Governor Phil Murphy and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop called on the board member to resign immediately.
"Her comments don’t represent Jersey City or the sentiment in the community at all,” Fulop said in a statement.
The president of the Jersey City school board, Sudhan Thomas, wrote in an email this week that he intends to censure Terrell-Paige. On Thursday morning, Thomas was indicted by the New Jersey attorney general for accepting bribes. A meeting of the board scheduled for Thursday evening appears to have been cancelled, with Thomas citing "potential security risks" as the cause.
Meanwhile, a handful of people have come to Terrell-Paige's defense. Speaking with NJ.com, Carolyn Oliver Fair, the executive director of the North Jersey Chapter of the National Action Network, said she didn't understand the backlash.
"She said nothing wrong," claimed Fair. "Everything she said is the truth. So where is this anti-Semitism coming in? I am not getting it."
Members of the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s Black Caucus, which includes local and state elected officials, also said that board member's remarks had prompted a necessary conversation about divisions between Jersey City's black and Jewish communities.
“While we do not agree with the delivery of the statement made by Ms. Terrell-Paige, we believe that her statement has heightened awareness around issues that must be addressed and should be a topic of a larger conversation by two communities that have already and must always continue to coexist harmoniously,” the group said in a statement.
Terrell-Paige could not be reached for comment.
Additional reporting by Gwynne Hogan.