Agudah: Toms River Mayoral Candidates Used ‘Hateful,’ ‘Divisive’ Rhetoric in Campaign Ads

By Matis Glenn

Two candidates in the upcoming Republican primary election for Mayor of Toms River used language described as “divisive” and “hateful,” seen as targeting Orthodox Jews, in campaign ads circulated around the town.

Two Republican candidates – incumbent Maurice “Mo” Hill, and Councilman Daniel Rodrick – released campaign materials ahead of the June 6th primary. Sources intimately familiar with Toms River politics tell Hamodia that while Rodrick has made incendiary comments about Jews in the past, Hill has not.

While listing the issues he wishes to tackle if reelected, Hill’s ad lists “People of different cultures fleeing the cities buying up our real estate; attracted by our location and affordability, they are seemingly threatening the way of life that attracts them.”

In another apparent swipe at the Orthodox community, Hill lists among his accomplishments as mayor that he “fought religious leaders’ attempts to circumvent our zoning ordinance and the DOJ settlement in court and at the negotiating table.”

In a more overt statement, Hill’s campaign materials contain an electronic questionnaire to town residents, asking them what they think is the most important issue Toms River is facing. “Growth of the Orthodox community” was listed as a choice, along with “stopping overdevelopment.” Other choices included reducing property taxes, and “restoring school funding stolen by Trenton Democrats.”

Rodrick’s advertisement said that he has a record of fighting “Lakewood style development,” and that he “voted No to cutting acreage requirement for houses of worship from 10 acres to just 2 acres.”

“Agudath Israel of America’s NJ Office is deeply concerned about divisive and hateful rhetoric employed recently by elected officials in Toms River, NJ,” Agudath Israel’s New Jersey office said in a statement.

“At a time when antisemitism in New Jersey is at a record high, civic leaders carry the responsibility to counter hate and antisemitism, not promote it.

“Divisive and hateful language should never be used. We call upon civic leaders throughout the state to denounce this rhetoric and to demand an apology from those who have engaged in this divisive activity.”

Along with other towns which are close to Lakewood, Toms River has been embroiled in controversy over zoning laws, with members of the Jewish community alleging antisemitism and bias on the part of elected officials blocking the development of shuls, yeshivos, and housing for the growing Jewish community.

An investigation by the Department of Justice began in 2017 after allegations that Toms River’s acreage requirement for houses of worship – 10 acres – was illegal, in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) act.

In September 2020, the DOJ ruled against the town, and opened negotiations for a settlement with those wishing to build shuls; had the town not agreed, they would have been hit with a $10 million fine and would risk losing its right to enact zoning laws. The developers wanted to reduce the acreage requirement to one acre.

In 2021, a settlement was made to require two acres. Rodrick was the only dissenting vote on the issue.  

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