New Jersey

New Jersey mayor walks back anti-Hasidic comments

Linden mayor Derek Armstead apologized for saying he wanted to prevent Linden from “being taken over by guys with big hats and curls."

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead at a Menorah lighting ceremony in 2021. Credit: @CityofLinden/X

Jun 4, 2024 3:30 PM


The mayor of Linden, New Jersey apologized on Wednesday after being caught on tape saying he wanted to prevent the city from “being taken over by guys with big hats and curls,” reported.

“Private remarks can be foolish and offensive,” Linden mayor Derek Armstead told the news site, still claiming his comment “was a far cry from being antisemitic.”

Armstead’s comments came to light because of a whistleblower lawsuit from Paul Oliveira, who was serving as Linden’s assistant school superintendent when he secretly recorded the mayor’s remarks. Oliveira accused Armstead and other school leaders of purposely avoiding hiring Jewish candidates in the schools.

In response, Armstead argued that Hasidic Jews didn’t apply for those positions anyway, and that he was “staunchly committed” to diversity.

At the same time he apologized, Armstead accused Oliveira of attempting to extort $950,000 from Linden taxpayers and students. In a statement, he also questioned “the timing and motivations behind the leak of the recorded conversation, particularly given Armstead’s prominent position in the Democratic congressional primary.”

In response, Oliveira’s attorney, Armen McOmber, said Armstead’s accusations constitute “attempts to deflect attention from his own misconduct by attacking Paul” and that the mayor has “absolutely no business leading any city anywhere.”

Shlomo Schorr, the legislative director for Agudah’s New Jersey office, told Shtetl he was “appalled” by Armstead’s comments. “Describing the Chasidic community by their choice of headdress and hairstyles is offensive, but most concerning was his apparent desire to discriminate against the Orthodox community in hiring decisions,” Schorr said.

“The growth of the Jewish community in Linden and surrounding areas should be celebrated and encouraged, not disparaged behind closed doors,” he said.

About an hour’s drive from Lakewood, Brooklyn, and Monsey, Linden has in recent years become home to a growing Haredi community, including a large Bobov Hasidic community.