TOMS RIVER-If you shoplift in Toms River, your mug shot and a detailed crime report will be blasted to the media for publication. If you are a well-connected rabbi doing illegal work on your home without permits, as Councilman Maurice “Mo” Hill claims, you are shielded from prying eyes by township officials.
That’s the case in Toms River again as township officials rejected a request to update the media after Hill sounded the alarm at a home being renovated by Toms River Rabbi Moshe Rotberg. When asked for an update on the case, a routine exercise between the media and a municipality, township officials slammed the door on transparency.
“You must submit an OPRA request,” said township press secretary Stacey Proebstle. “All further questions should be sent to Mr. Hill’s campaign for comment as this was not an official press release from the Township.”
After slamming Rabbi Rotberg , claiming he is breaking the law, Hill met later that night with Scott Gartner, an Orthodox Jewish community leader in the township who donated thousands of dollars to Hill’s primary election campaign this spring. Gartner confirmed the meeting, saying only, “We had a[n] iced tea.” Shore News Network reached out to Gartner after the evening meeting and Gartner initially rejected that he met with Councilman Hill at his home. After being shown photos taken by a neighbor and sent to Shore News Network, Gartner conceded and only spoke about refreshments served that night to Admiral Hill at his spacious North Dover home.
Hill clamored for a work stoppage at the site, nearly a week later, construction continues.
It turns out, Gartner is the same person who threatened to sue Toms River if they did not approve the construction of a Synagogue and Rotberg is the rabbi of that congregation that has settled in North Dover. Hill and the council are now considering lowering the minimum acreage for houses of worship, but insiders say the council is waiting until after the November election to discuss the matter.
While home improvement violations are typically not newsworthy, it was Hill’s campaign who sounded the alarm with a press release on this particular case, drawing attention to the rabbi’s alleged illegal construction. Without the township providing a response, the concerned residents of Toms River will be left in the dark until Hill’s campaign releases a follow-up press release, apparently. We did not reach out to Hill’s campaign secretary for comment because it is SNN’s policy to not accept statements from political campaign managers. Mo Hill has not reached out to Shore News Network on this matter.
Gartner and Rotberg are pushing to build a 5,000 square foot building on two to five acres of land to serve up to 200 Orthodox Jewish families within a two-mile walking distance from their homes, according to a feature in the Jewish Voice.