TOMS RIVER, NJ – The celebration for Toms River Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill’s successful plan to lower the minimum required acreage for houses of worship at the township was joyous, but now it seems perhaps, shortlived.
Last night, the Toms River Township Council voted 6-1 to approve Mo Hill’s plan to lower the minimum acreage of houses of worship in the town from 10 acres to 2 acres.
Members of the township council boasted about Hill’s plan that would unify the town as one and deliver religious freedoms for the Orthodox Jewish community for which the town made the accommodation.
Today, that celebration came to a screeching halt when the leaders of the Toms River Jewish Community Council, a group of community leaders speaking on behalf of the Orthodox Jewish community said they were displeased with the outcome.
“In regards to the resolution on houses of worship by the Toms River Council; despite our continuous conversations with the Township over the last several years, the TRJCC is disappointed with the proposal set forth by the Toms River Township to amend the Township’s Municipal Code to re-introduce the inclusion of houses of worship in certain residential zones,” the TRJCC said in a statement today. “This proposal falls short of its stated goal to alleviate the burden on the Orthodox Jewish community’s ability to freely exercise its religious freedoms. For the Orthodox Jewish community living within the Township, the ability to have a synagogue within a safe walking distance of the residences of community members is an essential part of religious exercise.”
The group said Mo Hill and the Toms River council did not go far enough, although they claimed last night the agreement was one that was mutually agreed upon by Jewish community leaders and the Department of Justice.
The community is now asking for Hill to lower the zoning from two acres to one.
“The proposal discussed by the Township, will serve to perpetuate the ongoing burden on religious exercise by the Orthodox Jewish community, as there are many areas in the Township, particularly a number of areas in which members of the Orthodox Jewish community currently reside, where property lots consist of one (1) acre or less,” the TRJCC said in a statement. ” Accordingly, the TRJCC requests that the Township hold off on taking any action in this regard which does not effectively alleviate the burden on religious exercise currently posed on the Orthodox Jewish community. We are hopeful that the Township will continue to meet with the Orthodox Jewish community and its religious leaders so to fully understand the religious needs of the Orthodox Community, the discriminatory effect the current Municipal Code has on Orthodox Jewish observance in particular and, most importantly, to come up with a workable solution to finally eliminate the undue burden to Jewish religious observance which currently exists under the Municipal Code.”
Last night, it appeared that Mo Hill and the township averted a potential lawsuit between themselves and the Orthodox Jewish Community, but after agreeing to lower the zoning to two acres, it appears that a lawsuit may be impending after all.
The letter was signed by Booky Kaluszyner, who was present during Mo Hill’s victory celebration party in 2019, pictured above.