There’s still no love lost between Toms River mayor Tom Kelaher and Lakewood mayor Menashe Miller, as the Lakewood GOP doubles down on anti-semitism accusations against Toms River’s 3-term Republican mayor.
Despite both of them being members of Ocean County’s dominant Republican party, a very public feud between the two mayors has been taking place since the publication of comments made by Mayor Kelaher related to Lakewood’s sprawl, and how it is affecting Toms River residents.
The rift between the two towns continues to grow amid allegations of “blockbusting” from residents of the North Dover section of Toms River, which is close to the border with Lakewood. But members of Lakewood’s orthodox Jewish community continue to accuse officials and residents of anti-semitism.
After previously demanding a public apology from Tom Kelaher, Lakewood Republicans are doubling down on their criticism of the mayor, with the latest salvo being a letter sent to all Ocean County Freeholders, municipal Republican clubs, and county counsel John Sahradnik. The freeholders have yet to publicly weigh in on the ongoing controversy.
Kelaher: “It’s like an invasion.”
“Mayor Kelaher was quoted as stating that the purchase of homes by orthodox Jews in Toms River, in the open market, was akin to an ‘invasion’ and ‘blockbusting.’ These remarks are unacceptable,” said Lakewood Republican Club President Craig Theibault in the letter.
The article with Kelaher’s comments was, published in Bloomberg, entitled “Orthodox Jews Set Sights on N.J. Town and Angry Residents Resist.” Specifically, his statement that the issues in the neighborhoods bordering Lakewood were “like an invasion,” which enraged some member of Lakewood’s orthodox community.
Mr. Theibault further wrote that the Lakewood club’s membership unanimously approved a resolution further condemning the comments made by Mayor Kelaher. Theibault added that the club’s membership “fully supports” Mayor Menashe Miller in his crusade against the mayor of Toms River.
Mayor Kelaher’s sentiment was strongly echoed by numerous Toms River residents turned out at council meetings in support of the ordinance to ban real estate soliciting in North Dover. We’ve embedded a meeting video below:
Orthodox Jewish Community Blasts Asbury Park Press Over Lakewood Editorial
An additional target of the orthodox has been the Asbury Park Press. The paper’s editorial board recently stated that the township was “out of control,” and defended recent actions by neighboring towns to curtail door-to-door real estate solicitations.
The APP criticized Lakewood leaders for their attacks on Kelaher and others trying to prevent the door-to-door canvassing, which some have said is akin to the illegal tactic of “blockbusting.”
APP: “Bottom line: Lakewood is out of control, and its neighbors are doing what they can to keep it from spreading to their towns. Those efforts are being met, in some corners, with charges of anti-Semitism. It is nothing of the kind.”
The editorial further called for the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General to investigate Lakewood Township, citing examples of school funding issues and the ongoing courtesy busing controversy. Rabbi Moshe Zev Weissberg wrote that the APP piece”…reeks of stereotyping and hate-baiting.” The rabbi further alleged that the piece “rides the current wave of nasty anti-Orthodox sentiment promoting further divisiveness and hostility.”
Another publication, the Shore News Network ran an editorial decrying the cries of racism. The network took exception to the allegation that Toms River crime was spilling into Lakewood and the accusations made against Mayor Kelaher.
SNN: “When Mayor Miller fixes the trainwreck of a town he leads, perhaps then, we can start talking to him and taking his advice on how to run our towns.”
Toms River is joined by neighboring Brick, Manchester and Jackson in adopting a no-knock ordinance in response to aggressive real estate solicitations, as Lakewood continues to grow. Neither Toms River nor Lakewood appear to be any closer to a mutual understanding as of now, with both sides digging in their heels further.
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