TOMS RIVER-A letter from the Toms River Police Department wishing Jewish residents a happy Rosh Hashanna has struck a nerve with some people in this New Jersey town. Last week, the department issued a statement of well-wishing to the township’s Jewish population ahead of the upcoming holiday week.
The department also advised residents who are new to the township to adhere to the local building code when constructing outdoor sukkahs, temporary outdoor shelters associated with the celebration of the holiday. The event is held each year in front of townhall where the town’s mayor and council host school choirs, marching bands and community members to celebrate the holiday and to ring in the Christmas “season”.
But, on social media, some residents have criticized the department and township for the singling out of the Jewish holiday, claiming the township doesn’t observe other holidays.
Toms River has one of the largest Christmas Tree lighting ceremonies and celebrations in Ocean County annually.
Mayor Thomas Kelaher said many misunderstood the intent and content of the letter and said it was sent without approval or review from his office.
Mayor Thomas Kelaher released the following message in response to the complaints:
On behalf of the Administration and Governing Body, I issue this statement to address the negative reaction to the September 14, 2017, announcement issued by the Toms River Police Department. The announcement relayed information concerning Township policies and procedures pertinent to celebrants of an upcoming religious holiday.
Although well-intentioned, the announcement, as worded and publicized, raised concerns that public resources were being used to provide special treatment or a special service not generally available.
That is categorically not the case. The Township has always and will steadfastly continue to provide its services and enforce its ordinances on an equal basis. The policies and procedures referenced in the announcement are applicable and available to all Township residents uniformly, without regard to color, creed, or heritage. That is our country’s way, and that is Toms River’s way.
To the extent, the announcement conveyed the opposite impression, that was unequivocally not how it was intended, and certainly not how the Police Department wanted it received. Unfortunately, the announcement was released without the approval or input of the Mayor’s Office or the Township Council. More scrutiny of such announcements is in order. Going forward, I have directed that any future announcements from any department be pre-approved by the Business Administrator and Division of Law to avoid another misunderstanding.
We express regret that any Township resident felt excluded or offended by this announcement and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to keep Toms River a strong, vibrant, and inclusive community.