|Photo by R. Acosta, Saving Silverton Facebook Page|
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.
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.
This month, after fire destroyed a single-family home, the Ocean County sheriff said that it was being used as an unauthorized dorm for as many as two dozen yeshiva students. Downtown, inspectors boarded up a commercial building four times, citing non-permitted use as a catering hall and Orthodox study center, only to see the plywood removed and the space reopened. The fifth board-up succeeded, backed by a planning-board ruling, said Steven Secare, the township attorney.
That’s unlikely, according to Michael Dedominicis, a 40-year-old construction company owner who leads a social-media group called Toms River Strong that urges the town’s 91,000 residents not to sell. His account of dropping by a neighbor’s open house and being denied entry by its Orthodox listing agent is included in a 16-page report on real-estate canvassing issued by township officials Feb. 5.
“Where is the law in this situation?” Dedominicis said in an interview. “I have homeowners calling me, saying, 'They’re converting a three-car garage into bedrooms!'”
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.
Oh, come on now. In Queens, our elected official claim that this type of living is vibrant and diverse. What's wrong with these New Jerseyans?