July 2019: Mayor Mo Hill celebrates his election win at campaign headquarters with members of the Toms River Jewish Community Council and Agudath Israel of America.
July 2019: Mayor Mo Hill celebrates his election win at campaign headquarters with members of the Toms River Jewish Community Council and Agudath Israel of America. Photo courtesy of Mo Hill for Toms River Mayor campaign.

After township settles DOJ religious lawsuit, Toms River VAAD leader says it’s not enough

Toms River VAAD lobbyist says he will continue to lobby Mayor Mo Hill and the township council until the needs of the Orthodox Jewish community are met

TOMS RIVER, NJ – One of the leaders of the Toms River Jewish Community Council, known more commonly as a “VAAD”. VAAD is a Hebrew word that means ‘council’. The VAAD of Toms River offers representation to the growing Orthodox Jewish community in the town.

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Orthodox Jewish lobbyist wants houses of worship in any neighborhood without acreage restrictions

After successfully lobbying Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill during his election and in the time since to reduce the town’s 10-acre requirement to build houses of worship, Booky Kaluszyner says it isn’t enough.

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Last Tuesday, at a public township council meeting, Kaluszyner slammed councilman Daniel Rodrick for casting the lone no vote against the settlement to reduce acreage to 2-acres. The VAAD leader publicly chastized Rodrick for sharing a news story that revealed Kalusnyzer as a lobbyist.

“Are you a lobbyist?” Rodrick asked Kaluszyner.

“Yes,” he responded.

“Did you lobby this council?” Rodrick asked.

“Yes,” Kaluszyner responded.

Kaluszyner acknowledges that he is a lobbyist and that he actively lobbied Mayor Hill, councilman Kevin Geoghegan, and other councilmembers to change the ordinance.

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Now, Kaluszyner wants more. He wants shuls on less than one acre and in every residential neighborhood. He now claims Mo Hill and the council missed the mark, saying houses of worship need to be located in residential neighborhoods across the township.

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Kaluszyner is an ally of Hills. He was present with Hill, Geoghegan, Matt Lotano, and Josh Kopp at their post-election celebration victory in June of 2019, along with Agudath Israel of America’s state chairman, Avi Schnall.

Hill received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations during his election from the Orthodox Jewish lobbying effort in Toms River.

Mo Hill said he will not reduce the acreage below two acres, even though he sent a letter to voters in 2019 saying he would not reduce the 10-acre zoning requirement either.

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“Oh it’s a win-win for everyone,” Councilman Kevin Geoghegan said in a statement with the Asbury Park Press today. Geoghegan and Hill said they voted yes to settle a potential lawsuit with the Department of Justice, but now, it appears that another lawsuit could be coming as Kaluszyner said the religious rights of Orthodox Jews are still being restricted.

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Councilman Rodrick has claimed there was no inquiry or investigation by the Department of Justice, but that it was part of Hill’s elaborate plan to deliver a zoning change for his campaign donors and lobbyists. Rodrick noted that the only Department of Justice investigation in Toms River ended with the settlement between the township and the Toms River Chabad.

Rodrick alleges that Hill went to the Department of Justice to provoke the DOJ into forcing a settlement so that Hill and the council can blame the DOJ for the zoning change.

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Each time Rodrick tried speaking at last Tuesday’s town council meeting, Kevin Geoghegan, the council president and beneficiary of the VAAD’s lobbying effort moved to silence Rodrick, even denied him a chance to speak as a member of the public. Rodrick said Kaluszyner even tried to lobby him, but it was unsuccessful, in the end, Rodrick voted no.

“Three months later, Mayor Hill, Terrance Turnbach, and Anthony Merlino set up a meeting and took it upon themselves and asked the DOJ to further look into the lawsuit,” he said.

Rodrick also contested the meetings between Hill and the DOJ because negotiations and talks were done between Hill and Orthodox Jewish leaders and other members of the community were not invited to attend those talks. Rodrick also said he was never invited to those meetings.

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“Change came on the mayor’s land-use agenda,” Rodrick said of the two-acre zoning. “Hill said he was blindsided, Councilwoman Huryk said hill was a liar and was working to make these changes. Hill began lobbying the new council to support his plan. I didn’t want to go along with him then I will not go along with him tonight. There is no United States vs Toms River Township lawsuit. Huryk was right. Mo Hill Lied.”

Hill, Geoghegan, allies deflect Rodrick’s opposition

Residents in Toms River have opposed houses of worship in residential zones over traffic and parking concerns.

Councilman Kevin Geoghegan told Rodrick to be quiet and told the councilman he may no longer speak after his comments. That was after Rodrick criticized Hill and the council over their vote. They also claimed Rodrick was out of line for calling out Hill for flip-flopping on the matter, once lobbyists and political campaign donors started writing checks to Hill’s political campaign.

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“There is nothing wrong with changing your opinion,” said Councilman Josh Kopp.

“It’s a prudent decision by the township,” Mayor Hill said. “I want to thank the council for moving forward on that.”

Councilman Matt Lotano said, “We are protecting the general welfare of all of our citizens.”

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“Mayor Maurice Hill is a great man,” said Democrat Councilman Terrance Turnbach. “He goes to work every day for this town and cares about everyone in this town. You can learn a lot of traits about family and community from Mayor Hill.”

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