TOMS RIVER (VINnews) — Last week, residents of Toms River, New Jersey, received a campaign mailer from Mayor Mo Hill that some believe contained antisemitic messaging.
After listing certain struggles of the past four years, including “COVID, the presidential election, the woke culture war…rampant inflation,” the mayor listed another problem: “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.”
Tova Herskovitz, an Orthodox Jewish resident of Toms River and founder of “One Ocean County” published an open letter to the mayor and posted it on Twitter.
In the letter, she wrote that she was worried about her 12-year-old son checking the mail because of the flyer. She pointed out how the Orthodox community is not at fault for the problems facing Toms River.
Herskovitz cited some of the messages including:
– Toms River “belongs” to the people who owned homes here prior to 2020.
– Toms River was a thriving community before “people of a different culture “ sneaked in.
– Toms River has closed borders to anyone not born here.
– There is a specific culture that is acceptable for Toms River residents that included Roman Catholic Christians with Italian or Irish heritage.
“You paint a dire picture of an idyllic suburban lifestyle destroyed by outsiders,” Herskovitz wrote. “Actually, it’s the insiders who have been hurting this lovely town that I’m proud to call home.”
She noted that the Orthodox population “does not endorse large scale housing developments and moved here precisely to enjoy the quieter pace.”
In his response to Herskovitz, Hill published his own letter. One of the points he made was that he finds it difficult to address the fears and frustrations of local non-Jewish residents about the Orthodox community, without offending the orthodox community.
Hill wrote: “The gap between what was actually written on my campaign flyer, what we intended to convey, and how it was received by you and some other members of the Orthodox Jewish community is astonishingly wide. This is an indication of how far we are from understanding each other and how much work we have to do together to be better neighbors.”
Hill said he was upset that Herskovitz and other members of Toms River’s Orthodox community found the flier’s message threatening or derogatory.
“To be very clear, my campaign flyer was in no way intended to imply that Toms River “belongs” to any exclusive group based upon how long they have lived here, that our borders are closed to anyone who is of a different culture than those who already reside here, or that Roman Catholic Italians and Irish are the only “acceptable” residents of our township,” the mayor wrote. “That you received our message that way is eye opening and upsetting. But rather than avoid the upset, I think it would be more useful to use it as a baseline to measure how far apart the various segments of our town are from understanding each other.”
He added, “Here’s my dilemma: How do I address the fears and frustrations of some residents about the growth of the Orthodox Jewish community, without offending some members of the Orthodox Jewish community? So far, my attempts at bridging the gap without upsetting or offending anyone, on all sides, have not been successful.
“Moving forward, I welcome your offer to work together to find solutions to the issues facing our town,” Hill added. ” I hope that together we can foster a greater understanding of the needs of the Orthodox Jewish community in a way that helps eliminate any fear, frustration and bigotry throughout the town.”