READ IT: Toms River Mayor Responds To Open Letter From Orthodox Jewish Resident Tova Herskovitz

Dear Mrs. Herskovitz,

Thank you for your thoughtful open letter.  I am grateful to the publisher for sharing my response openly as well. We need more open and honest communication, in Toms River and throughout the world, if we are to understand each other better and live together as good neighbors.

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.

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. 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.

In no way was our campaign flyer intended to be biased or threatening.

As the mayor for all Toms River residents, it is very apparent to me that a significant portion of our neighbors are fearful and frustrated by the growth of the Orthodox Jewish population. For some, those emotions are driven by bigotry. For many, it is driven by misinformation, i.e., the widespread false belief that “house shuls” do not pay property taxes.  For others it is simply a fear of change.

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.

In my defense, I am the only candidate for mayor who is attempting to bridge the gap. Each of my opponents has demonstrated their intention to exploit the bigotry and frustration for their own political gain.

Moving forward, I welcome your offer to work together to find solutions to the issues facing our town.  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.

We cannot solve these issues by pretending they don’t exist and we cannot educate each other without an actual discussion.  We should encourage that dialogue at every opportunity and simultaneously condemn those who would hijack those discussions through fear mongering and anti-semitism.

Very truly yours,

Mo Hill

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  1. Quote from the Mo Hill flyer: Life has been challenging.. 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..

    What a way to bridge gaps and mend fences…


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