Agudath Israel Files Illegal Discrimination Lawsuit Against New Jersey Township
Agudath Israel of America and W R Property , a property owner in Jackson, have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Jersey against the T ow nship of Jackson, New Jersey , challenging new Jackson zoning regulations, asserting that they are inte nded to prevent Orthodox Jews from opening schools or dormitories in Jackson. The suit alleges that the regulations were enacted wit h the express
purpose of such anti-Orthodox discriminati on, and are in clear violation of Federal law
The ordinances that are being challenged in Federal court were passe d this March by the Town Council of Jackson, which borders Lakew ood, in an area where many Orthodox Jews live. The lawsuit contends that the regulations were clearly motivated by a de sire to prevent Orthodox Jews
from moving to Jackson, and “ by discriminatory animus against the Orthodox Jewish community .”
The suit cites a number of examples of such anim us, expressed by public off icials and by vocal segments of the public.
Last year former T ow nship Council President Rob Nixon called an Agudath
Israel leader ’ s suggestion that Orthodox Jews consider Jackson as a place to live “repre hensible.”
Nixon went so far as to file a complaint against the Agudath Israel leader with the U.S. Justice Department and the New Jersey Attorney General’ s o f fice, both of which saw no merit to Nix on’ scomplaint.
Other allegations in the Complaint include recitati ons of statements made by local residents at
T ownship meetings and in online forums, such as “All of yo ur problems only stem from the Ultra-
Religious! The Hasidics and Ultra-Orthodox!”
Citing these and numerous other examples of anti-Or thodox animus in recent years, and particularly
surrounding the enactment of the no school and t he no dormitory ordinances in Jackson, the Agudath
Israel and W R Property lawsuit alleges violation of the U.S. Constitutio n’ s Equal Protection, Free
Exercise and Establishment Clauses and Freedom of Association principles; four clauses of the
federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000; the Fair Housing Act; and
New Jersey’ s Law Against Discrimination.
The suit seeks a judgment holding the township’ s ordinances unconstitutional and illegal, and their
annulment, as well as attorneys’ fees and nominal damages.
According to Rabbi A vi Schnall, Agudath Israel’ s New Jersey Off ice director , “Orthodox Jews, like
any other person, have the basic right, protecte d by federal law , to live where they please. Local laws
intended to keep people out of an area or T ownship based on religion or ethnicity vi olate Federal law
Orthodox Jews have the right to open sc hools, build houses of worship, and develop businesses, j ust
like any other group, and this essential value of freedom of religion, on which America was founded,
is being denied.”
The plaintiff s are represented by Storzer & Associates, a law firm that has vast experience in
representing religious communities’ interests in land use disputes, and with whom Agudath Israel has
worked over the past few years.
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