Some NJ suburbanites not happy with Orthodox influx

The New Jersey suburb of Toms River is up in arms regarding numerous Orthodox families moving in:

These days, though, most homeowners draw the blinds, retreating from brushes with a fast-growing Orthodox Jewish community that’s trying to turn a swath of suburban luxury 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Atlantic beaches into an insular enclave. The rub, a township inquiry found, is “highly annoying, suspicious and creepy” tactics used by some real-estate agents…

“It’s like an invasion,” said Thomas Kelaher, Toms River’s three-term mayor, who’s fielded complaints from the North Dover section since mid-2015. “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.”

The upset has its roots in adjacent Lakewood, home to yeshivas including Beth Medrash Govoha, among the world’s biggest centers for Talmudic study. Scholars typically marry young and start large families that maintain strict gender roles and limit interaction with secular society…

The opposition, he said, has nothing to do with dislike of Jews, but with a fear that Toms River will become like Lakewood’s more tattered sections, with cars parked on lawns, overgrown landscaping, trash piled at curbs and residents crowding single-family homes.

As the article notes, this sounds similar to the tactics employed against different racial and ethnic groups in the first half of the 20th century: fear, worries about changing the character of the community and providing new social services, enforcing zoning laws, pushy slash creepy real estate agents, the potential for declining property values. Yet, this story hints that residential segregation is alive and well. Even though Americans regularly talk about the geographic mobility everyone can access, it doesn’t quite work this way as existing residents can be resistant to change and different racial and ethnic groups tend to cluster not just in cities but also in suburbs.

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