The residents of a New Jersey town are concerned that a haredi "invasion" will soon take over their neighborhoods.
As the predominantly-Orthodox town of Lakewood continues to grow, some of its residents are looking to new homes, including in nearby Toms River. Mayor Thomas Kelaher, however, is leading an effort to show the haredim that they would not be welcome.
Kelaher told Bloomberg that residents have been complaining about "highly annoying, suspicious and creepy" realtors trying to purchase their homes. He claims they threaten homeowners that the area will be completely bought out and there will be no more non-Orthodox neighbors.
Toms River and Lakewood have similar populations, both a little under 100,000, though Lakewood's smaller size causes it to be over four times as crowded.
"It’s like an invasion," said Kelaher. "It’s the old throwback to the 1960s, when blockbusting happened in Philadelphia and Chicago with the African-American community — ‘I want to buy your house. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.’ It scares the hell out of people."
The state director of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Schnall, acknowledges that some of the realtors "are overly aggressive and making a bad name for the others," but also added that the "extent of the anger" against haredim runs deep in the surrounding towns.
Many of the opponents are gathering under a social media group called Toms River Strong to encourage their neighbors not to sell to haredim. The group's founder, Michael Dedominicis, says that the members are not anti-Semitic, but rather that they fear the newcomers would cause a decline standards, mentioning his fear of overcrowded houses, piles of garbage on the street, and cars left on the lawns. He also suggests that the haredim would abuse the taxpayers' money.