Orthodox Jews Set Sights on N.J. Town and Angry Residents Resist

Look! Not all Jews are pushy and dishonest in business. It is only a tiny number that give the rest of us a bad name. Oy vey!

In most of these conflicts described in the story below, Jews tend to win, though there are occasional setbacks such as the Holocaust.

I know a lot of Jewish real estate agents and none of the ones I know behave this horrible way (though they are far more aggressive than the WASPs I grew up among), and yet none of the bad behavior described surprises me and none of the reaction against it surprises me. Different groups have different interests and they’re competing for scarce resources such as land.

The more traditional the Jew, the less likely he is to deeply concerned with the law of the land, except to the extent he needs to be to stay safe. Orthodox Jews have their own way of life. They just happen to live in America or Canada or Australia.

I love the real estate agent who says opposition to the Orthodox pouring in is motivated by fear of the unknown. I’d say the opposition is motivated by fear of the known. In Australia, for example, there’s little anti-Semitism except for in Sydney and Melbourne, where people are more likely to meet real live Jews.

Orthodox Jews and orthodox Muslims and blacks and latinos are not inherently good guys or bad guys. It depends on their behavior and it depends on the old dynamic of who, whom? Who is doing what to whom? Whose ox is gored? If you want to keep a sleepy polite low-intensity neighborhood, you are not going to want Orthodox Jews moving in. As with all insular groups, the stronger the Jews’ Jewish identity, the less likely he is to be concerned with those outside the group.

A lot of Orthodox Jews don’t take the same care with their landscaping and their yelling and their general behavior that good citizen WASPs usually take. Orthodox Jews have other concerns, such as keeping God’s commandments. Orthodox Jews are not the bad guys here, they are the bad guys for those residents of Toms River who want to maintain a different type of community than the one many Orthodox Jews want to create. What we have here is not a failure to communicate but a genuine conflict of interest.

Modern Orthodox Jews tend to make good neighbors and to keep up their yards. More traditional Jews are less likely to be concerned with such niceties.

If Orthodox Jews dominate a neighborhood, they are not going to want to pay taxes to support public schools. Their concern is with developing Jewish schools, just as whites dealing with a lot of blacks and latinos become increasingly opposed to funding social welfare programs that will largely be used by non-whites.

The more generations Jews live in the West, the more they assimilate to Western norms. Most Jews in the United States, however, are from Eastern Europe, where they live in an atmosphere of mutual loathing with the goyim for centuries. Jews from Western Europe, by contrast, found much to admire and imitate in gentile life.

I think it is clear that the Orthodox are going to run this neighborhood in question. Whether the town, like Postville before it, is better for that remains to be seen.

Many of the problems the Orthodox are having in this new town could be diminished by consideration for the other party’s point of view.

I suspect that most non-Orthodox Jews will have more sympathy for the town than for the Orthodox in this fight.


Every home is big on glass in a Toms River, New Jersey, neighborhood called North Dover. Windows let in the sun, or show off chandeliers in multistory entrance halls.
These days, though, most homeowners draw the blinds, retreating from brushes with a fast-growing Orthodox Jewish community that’s trying to turn a swath of suburban luxury 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Atlantic beaches into an insular enclave. The rub, a township inquiry found, is “highly annoying, suspicious and creepy” tactics used by some real-estate agents.

They show up on doorsteps to tell owners that if they don’t sell, they’ll be the only non-Orthodox around. Strangers, sometimes several to a car, shoot photos and videos. When they started pulling over to ask children which house was theirs, parents put an end to street-hockey games.
“It’s like an invasion,” said Thomas Kelaher, Toms River’s three-term mayor, who’s fielded complaints from the North Dover section since mid-2015. “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.”
Scholarly Community
The upset has its roots in adjacent Lakewood, home to yeshivas including Beth Medrash Govoha, among the world’s biggest centers for Talmudic study. Scholars typically marry young and start large families that maintain strict gender roles and limit interaction with secular society.
Rabbi Avi Schnall, state director of Agudath Israel of America, which represents Orthodox Jews on political, social and religious issues, said a few sales agents “are overly aggressive and making a bad name for the others.” He declined to say whether anti-Semitism is at work, but said the “extent of the anger” in Lakewood’s neighboring towns is deep, fueling opposition to a learning center, a boarding school, dormitories and other proposals.

…The friction reflects increasing insularity among the most religious Jews worldwide. In Israel, the Haredi inhabit a largely separate social world, according to a Pew Research Center survey this month. They share few connections even with their fellow Jews and there is scant intermarriage; 89 percent of the Haredim surveyed said all or most of their close friends belonged to their own community.
Though just 10 percent of America’s 5.3 million Jewish adults identify themselves as Orthodox, they have much larger families than others of their religion, and “their share of the Jewish population will grow,” according to a 2015 Pew survey. Their conservatism could “shift the profile of American Jews in several areas, including religious beliefs and practices, social and political views and demographic characteristics.”
Lakewood, once a rural destination for Rockefellers and other industry titans, is now a land of synagogues, religious schools, kosher groceries and residential neighborhoods in the grip of minivan gridlock. It’s also a place testing the limits of zoning enforcement for 95,000 people, at least half Orthodox, by Schnall’s estimate…

The opposition, he said, has nothing to do with dislike of Jews, but with a fear that Toms River will become like Lakewood’s more tattered sections, with cars parked on lawns, overgrown landscaping, trash piled at curbs and residents crowding single-family homes.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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