Toms River mayor Thomas Kelaher defended his use of the word “invasion” to describe the interest from Orthodox Jews in the township's North Dover neighborhood

He told the Asbury Park Press his quote in a story on the Bloomberg Business website was taken out of context.

In the Bloomberg piece, he was quoted saying the growth of the Jewish community was "like an invasion. It’s the old throwback to the 1960s, when blockbusting happened in Philadelphia and Chicago with the African-American community -- ‘I want to buy your house. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.’ It scares the hell out of people."

"To suggest that I am anti-Semitic is ridiculous. We have a lovely relationship with the Jewish community in Toms River," he told the Asbury Park Press.

Residents of North Dover, which borders Lakewood, have been increasingly complaining about persistent real estate agents going door-to-door asking them to sell their homes — often seeking homes for the area's growing Orthodox Jewish population. Toms River's town council recently passed an ordinance creating a five-year "cease-and-desist" zone to bar door-to-door solicitations after residents said a no-knock registry wasn't working. Residents open to solicitations can make their wishes known at the township clerk's office.

"Let's assume that I used that word (invasion)." the Press quoted Kelaher saying. "What I was referring to is the sworn testimony of neighbors in the North Dover area, who testified and used that term, that they feel like it's an invasion. That's the context in which I used it. The people who live there think that."

The Lakewood Scoop reported that the Lakewood Republican Club passed a motion condemning Kelaher's statement and demanding an apology. Ocean County Freeholder Ginny Haines told the news site the comments were "unacceptable."

“What does that mean? There’s some sort of ghetto wall that surrounds Lakewood? And now Jews are breaking through the ghetto? What does that mean? Enough is enough," the Scoop quoted Justin Flancebaum, the chairman of Lakewood's Municipal Committee chairman said,

Kelaher recently told Townsquare Media the new ordinance was proposed to protect residents against harassment and intimidating conduct.

"People's homes are their biggest investment, generally speaking, and to threaten that or to threaten their way of life, we found to be outrageous," he said.

Kelaher said Toms River's ordinance was modeled after an existing law in a municipality in upstate New York that was dealing with the same issue. He said the ordinance withstood legal challenges, and was upheld by the federal second-circuit court of appeals in New York.

Dianne DeOliveira contributed to this report

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