Toms River Mayor Thomer Kelaher says his constituents in the New Jersey locale have complained to him about aggressive realtors trying to bully them out of their homes to accommodate an influx of Orthodox Hasidic Jews moving there in large numbers, the Mail Online reports.
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The newspaper says the problem is due to a housing shortage in the nearby town of Lakewood, home to one of the largest populations of Hasidic Jews in the United States.
Real estate agents try to scare Toms River residents into selling their homes by cautioning they are soon liable to be the only non-Jews living in the area, Kelaher is quoted to have said.
"It's like an invasion," Kelaher says. "It scares the hell out of people."
Rabbi Avi Schnall, state director of Agudath Israel of America, which represents ultra-Orthodox Jews, slams the mayor's remarks, tweeting on the social media site:
"The town has seen a spike in bank robberies and break-ins, and the area is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, yet the mayor feels 'aggressive realtors' are the biggest concern."
James Jackson of Toms River, a town of more than 90,000, says he was approached by a man in a black suit in the fall and after he said he didn't want to sell his home the man put his hand on Jackson's shoulder and told him he might want to reconsider.
Many of his neighbors in 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 said. "He asked if I would really be happy, if it would be in my family's best interests."
"He was trying to intimidate me, but not in a physical way."