Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hamodia OP-ED: Good News From Ocean Township

OP-ED
The federal court decision in the Yeshiva Naos Yaakov case is a significant victory for religious liberties in general and the Jewish community specifically. We are gratified that U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson upheld the yeshivah’s contention that the application of zoning regulations by Ocean Township, N.J., was, in fact, a matter of religious discrimination.

The township’s claim that its denial of a variance was based on impartial, “neutral ordinances” was rejected by the court. It found, instead, that it was a violation of RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits local boards from exploiting zoning laws in such a way as to interfere with freedom of religion.



As Roman P. Storzer, attorney for the yeshivah, characterized it ahead of a recent hearing: “This is bigotry masked as a zoning hearing, pure and simple. The situation that the yeshivah has faced here is exactly why Congress decided that RLUIPA’s protections are necessary.”

Despite the township’s careful avoidance of any anti-Semitic comment in its official statements, the local clamor against the yeshivah and the Lakewood Orthodox community in general belied its sanctimonious claims of pure zoning considerations. The blatant anti-Semitic remarks cited by the yeshivah’s attorney in court, as well as such tactics as packing hearings and imposing unconscionable delays, spoke for themselves.

The ugly remarks need not be repeated here, but there was little doubt, including in Judge Wolfson’s mind, that the zoning board voted in accordance with such sentiments. That vote, in December 2015, to deny the application for a variance, citing a lack of information about the project, was nothing short of bizarre as the questions posed during the hearings were so clearly irrelevant that their most obvious purpose was to cast aspersions.

We hope that now the yeshivah will be allowed to expand its dormitory facilities to accommodate the growth of the institution, and the talmidim will be able to pursue their studies undisturbed. Ken yirbu.

But victory though it was, cause for celebration it is not. Once again, what should have been a routine matter of granting a legitimate zoning variance became an instance of hate-based obstructionism. When the opaque refusals of the local officialdom failed to discourage the yeshivah, vile opposition to religious Jewry surfaced.

The court decision affirms that the law of the land is religious tolerance, and that intolerance by stealth is an affront to American traditions of freedom.

But as a court victory, while it removes the legal obstacle to the Orthodox community’s natural growth, it does not remove the hatred which created that obstacle in the first place. This a court ruling cannot do.

That the battle is not over is clear. In a statement welcoming the court’s decision, Rabbi Avi Schnall, Agudath Israel’s New Jersey director, said, “This decision … sends a clear message that our religious rights will not be trampled upon and we hope this will serve as an example to other municipalities.”

Among those other municipalities is that of Toms River, New Jersey. The same battle is being fought there. Rabbi Moshe Gourarie, who operates the local Chabad house, is also caught up in a legal struggle to maintain the Shabbos minyan in his home against charges of land-use violations.

Officially, the issue has been presented by the municipality as one of noise pollution and traffic created by Rabbi Gourarie’s little group of 10 to 20 participants. But the swastika painted on his driveway a few weeks ago told a different story.

Passage of RLUIPA in 2000 was a milestone that should provide other victories, in Toms River and elsewhere. We are thankful that there is such legal recourse.

But the origin of RLUIPA reflected a troubling situation. In the late 1990s, multiple Congressional hearings revealed overwhelming evidence that local boards tailored zoning and land-use regulations to fit their prejudices. The new law put the burden of proof on officials to show “compelling reason” for the “substantial burdens” they seek to impose on religious groups.

It took years to secure passage of RLUIPA. It will take more years before it becomes sufficiently established by court rulings that municipalities will give up on the land-use strategy altogether. But with continued patience and perseverance, that day may also come.

As for the anti-Semitism that lurks behind such behavior and all-too-often shows itself in all its ugliness, we will have to wait for a different era entirely. May it come speedily, in our days.

19 comments:

  1. Why is Westgate any different than Ocean township? why is everyone silent when in Lakewood you have people stopping a shul masked as zoning and other manufactured issues. Agudah should get involved in westgate so that shuls in LAKEWOOD can be built with out problems.

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  2. Why are half the comments in here about Westgate.

    We get it, Westgate is messed up, if you can't change it move out. It will lower your blood pressure.

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    1. People should move out because of a mafia controlled by a few bullies?? let the rabbonim put an end to the redifos and throw the mafia out. Let other shuls and hehilos flourish and have room to accommodate all children in shuls.

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    2. Oilam Hafuch Raisee, Elyonim Lmatah V'tachtonim L'malah. You can't change this world, it is corrupt, and always has been, at some point you gotta to do what is best for yourself.

      If it's causing you aggravation and making you a bitter person, move on. doesn't mean you are wrong.

      If you did what you can, and it this point it is only effecting your peace of mind, leave it alone. Certain things have to be left to the Bes Din Shel M'aalah

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  3. Stop this Westgate nonsense already. Let the Westgate Shul go to the planning board with a normal application. Don't care about the opposition. If you still get turned down then you can sue to overturn the denial. Till you get denied ,you have no standing. Hocking on this blog won't get you anywhere. Come up with a normal reasonable application and then get turned down ,then you have a case.

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    1. The shul in WG came with a conforming application to the planning board. The Mispalelim from Ropshitz hired a lawyer to bring up an issue that was outright MESIRA. In addition they reached out unterin tish to planning board members who stalled the application trying to push it to zoning and placing ridiculous restrictions that no other shuls in lakewood have. The Agudah should file an amicus brief on behalf of BM of Kelmwoods.

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  4. One of the WG mafia members took pictures during a busy avos ubanim program on chol hamoed when all kids are off from school and showed it to planing board members.

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    1. and??
      The action speaks for itself.

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  5. This is all nonsense. Just step up with the conforming application. If you are denied,then you can complain ,and file suit. Until then stop hocking.

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    1. The people who keep on insisting it's "all nonsense" are either incredibly clueless or incredibly selfish

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    2. Its nonsense to a clueless person. The BM of kelmwoods went 5 times to the planing board and each time they were met with opposition from the WG vaad and members of ropshitz. First it was the mikva with Mandel and Greenspan stopping the shul. following 2 years of a din torah which the psak favored the shul and all agreed the shul building can proceed once again the WG mafia hired a lawyer (under someone else's name)and the lawyer dug up stuff that complicated the issue. (Issues that ttownship boards have overlooked previously for other special interests. But here members of ropshitz reached out to township officials and used their protektzia to stall and prevent a shul from building. They sent their wives instead to the meeting to stop the shul in the name of tznius.
      As long that a lawyer is hired to oppose it will be a hard long money draining process. In Westgate of all places were so many families could barely make ends meet to put bread on their table. Children dont come to shul on shabbos because there is a lack of seats and the shortage keeps on getting bigger. The Westgate shul and rav have not done anything to accommodate the growth and by remaining silent are contributing to the rishus and achzariyus taking place there.

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  6. Naos Yakov won because they went through with the application and got a denial. If the Shul is not willing to go through with the application and get a denial ,you can't sue. If you think that hocking on this blog will get you somewhere ,that is nonsense. Only a denial with a record showing you were turned down with a conforming application ,will allow you to sue in federal court.

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    1. Perhaps speak to members of BM of westgate, Ropshitz, to cut out the garbage and get rid of their quest for power and control.They have become the laughing stock of Lakewood. For their own good, tell them to give it up they have children in shidduchim now, this is not what they need. What will they answer after 120 about their true intentions here. And if they are leshem shamayim why are they hiding behind their wives why are they hiding behind a lawyer.

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  7. When you get turned down and win in Federal court ,you will get your court fees also. So just go through with the application. If you don't have the guts to do that ,then stop whining. It won't get you anywhere.

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    1. So you agree that the opposition to the shul in WG is equivalent to that of yeshiva Naos Yaakov had to endure. The only difference is, in west gate its chashuvim mit langer berd, that are acting just like the sonei Torah and anti semites elsewhere. Some members of the Planning board were contacted outside of the meeting.. more to come.

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    2. If the shul goes ahead with the application, you can be sure that one of the "l'shaim shomayim" people will do their best to thwart it

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  8. stop complaining if your not going to publish names of those animals askanim only bishes will stop them

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  9. Yes but if you mention names you're yelled at for not being mentschlech - truly a no win situation!

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