Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Toms River among towns restricting door-to-door solicitation amid Hasidic influx

Are they confusing chasidim from NY with litvaks from Lakewood?

LAKEWOOD  — James Jackson didn't want to sell his home but thanked the black-suited man for his interest anyway.

That's when the man put his hand on Jackson's shoulder and told him he might want to reconsider. Many of his neighbors in the New Jersey shore town of Toms River, the man said, already planned to sell to Jewish buyers like those he represented.

"He asked me why I would want to live in a Hasidic neighborhood if I wasn't Hasidic," Jackson recalled. "He asked if I would really be happy, if it would be in my family's best interests."

A housing crunch in Lakewood, home to one of the nation's largest populations of Hasidic Jews, has triggered what residents of neighboring communities say are overly aggressive, all-hours solicitations from agents looking to find homes for the rapidly growing Jewish community.

The complaints have prompted towns, including Toms River, to update their "no-knock" rules and related laws, adding real estate inquiries to measures that already limit when soliciting can occur and allow residents to bar solicitations.

But Jewish leaders and others say the no-knock laws unfairly target Orthodox Jews and those seeking to help them find houses. Many current residents came to the community to study at one of the largest yeshivas in the world and eventually settled down.

The 2010 census found the town had nearly 93,000 residents, about 32,000 more than a decade earlier. And town officials believe there are closer to 120,000 residents now.

"The growth in Lakewood is a sign of the great quality of life which is attracting all these people," said Avi Schnall, the state director of Agudath Israel, a national grassroots advocacy and social service organization representing Orthodox Jews.

"However, the challenge is being able to keep up with the influx," Schnall added. "This has driven people to take residence in nearby towns, where houses are more available and affordable."

Schnall calls the recent no-knock changes "troubling." He also believes there is a campaign to prevent members of the Orthodox community from moving in. And he thinks the real estate agents are being used as the scapegoats, claims that leaders in neighboring towns say are unfounded.

Samuel Heilman, a sociology professor at Queens College in New York City and a leading authority on Orthodox Judaism, says he doubts that such laws are anti-Semitic in their origins. But he notes that the measures may now be invoked more aggressively by people trying to keep Orthodox Jews out of their neighborhoods, for fear the area will become a Hasidic community.

"The problem is structural: Hasidim live in Hasidic communities predominantly. They can only move as groups," said Heilman. "That leads to counter-moves by other groups who do not want their community to be inundated by them."

Municipal leaders stress that their laws are not aimed at keeping out any groups, but rather to protect residents.

"Our 'no knock' law goes back many years. It's not just in response to what has been happening now," Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher said. "We are trying to protect those people from conduct that's outrageous, harassing, intimidating or unwelcome."

Jackson said he was working outside his home last fall when he was unexpectedly approached by the man in the black suit. The encounter was initially cordial but turned darker, he said.

"He was trying to intimidate me, but not in a physical way," Jackson said. "He was playing mind games, and he was really good at it."

Toms River is also in the process of creating "cease and desist" zones, where door-to-door real estate soliciting would be banned in designated areas that have been inordinately and repeatedly solicited. The ordinance is modeled on one in New York state that held up in court despite objections from realty groups. The New York rule allows residents to petition for their neighborhood to be included on the list of areas where solicitation is not allowed.

Realty groups say they their main concern is to find common ground.

"Our local communities are incredibly important to both our members and our association," said Mary Ann Wissel, chief executive officer of the Ocean County Board of Realtors. She said the group was working with real estate agents and local officials to ensure that any no-knock registry laws are both "respectful to homeowners as well as fair to the lawful business practices of our members."

David Eckman, a Hasidic real estate investor, acknowledged that most of his visits to gauge people's interest in selling their homes are unsolicited, but he said he has never tried to intimidate or mislead anyone.

"People need homes, and I'm trying to help them find those homes," Eckman said. "They just want a nice place in a nice community, like everyone else."

Eckman said anyone using fear tactics, be it directly or implied, should be barred.

"If they do that, they make us all look bad," Eckman said. "There are enough negative stereotypes out there about Jewish people, and doing things like that just makes people think they are true."


  1. So this 'expert' Heilman claims the laws are not anti-semitic, they just don't want to be inundated with Hassidic Jews.
    Can someone explain that logic please?

    1. They don't want neighbors that will slowly infiltrate. Slowly start gaining power. Slowly start turning their town into a slum. Have you been to Monsey lately? Have you seen what's happened to Lakewood?
      I'm frum and I don't want that to happen to Jackson. That's not anti Semitism

  2. If you dont see anything wrong with knocking on doors at all hours and u see no problem with psychological intimidation then you should not have any problem when j4j comes knocking on your door trying to sell you his goods with psychological intimidation. You cant have it both ways.
    Another point: you say the orthodox are being targeted? Well what about us goyim being targeted. You know very well that if us goyim would be jews you would not be knocking on our doors.

  3. If you don't want rules enacted to give a homeowner respite from you pestering us to sell, stop using neighbourhood busting tactics, intimidation and relentless pestering to put our homes on the market. When am I moving out? When I'M ready, not when YOU are ready to buy my house. As a Lakewood victim of high pressure tactics for the past 16 years, I say why didn't Lakewood have the decency to enact the same rules?!

  4. You have to understand that it is the real estate agents or investors who are trying to cash in on this. I think it is disgusting if anyone made such a comment and I think 99% of the residents from lkwd agree. Most of us just want to live in peace with out neighbors and have no interest in creating strife or conflict. The actions of a few unscrupulous individuals should in no way be used to tar a whole group.

    1. If you are correct that its only *a few individuals* then why arent thier names bring published and why arent the rosh yeshivas and askonim putting a stop to it. The rabbinim should have stopped it before it hit the fan but they didn't. Now they still wont. So it cant only be a few yechidim. Kapish??

    2. If you think that the rabbonim still control the town you are in lala land. There are 2 groups that control this town Real Estate and Schools. The people acting this way belong to one of these groups.

    3. Why is it that when it comes to tznius issue, internet issue, lake issues, bad influence issues, raising money to pay someones mortgage etc, every rav and askan will sign but when it vomes to resl estate then everyone is tounge tied. Pleasr explain the logic.

    4. Please refer to previous comment as to who really runs the town.

  5. There areover 60000 frum adukts living here . there are definetely a few hundred people who have no manners etc . But that is maybe one half of one per cent . The Rabonim and RY cant control every single person in town .

    1. The rabbonim and rashey yeshivos choose what they want to make noise about. Obviously this issue of making us look like bad doesnt seem to bother them.

  6. You also have to understand that people are using this issue to further their own agenda.(Keeping Orthodox jews out of Jackson or TR) Now before everyone says that is not the case, go look at all of the hateful comments out there on social media.

    1. Thats because you reap what sow.

    2. You as in you! Look in the mirror. You reap what you sow!

    3. What exactly did I sow

  7. We live in Golus but we Jews think we are boss,we are not.We are put in Golus for a purpose not to live like the Goyim. History has shown that when we show off what we have,the Goyim will take it from us.