Local

Judge Rules Toms River Must Allow Chabad House To Remain Open; Township To Pay $122K In Damages

A federal judge has ruled that Toms River must allow the local Chabad House to continue to operate, in a landmark case which provides a strong boost to religious liberty and intercommunal harmony.

Judge Freda L. Wolfson of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey ruled that the Toms River municipality broke various laws in its quest to ban Rabbi Moshe Gourarie from operating Chabad Jewish Center in his home on Church Road.

TLS reports Toms River required Rabbi Gourarie to obtain a variance so that he can host Minyanim and similar religious functions in his home, which is in a residential zone, and issued him a host of violations.

Judge Wolfson affirmed that hosting religious services and events in the home – subject to limitations of attendees and quality of life protections for neighbors – is a constitutionally protected liberty even within a residential property. In addition, the Township was ordered to pay $122,500 in damages to Rabbi Gourarie.

Judge Wolfson found the township in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), the Fair Housing Act and other anti-discrimination laws.

The judge also placed some limits on the Chabad’s operations: no more than 35 people will be allowed at the property for events held there, except for on six holidays — Sukkos, Simchas Torah, Pesach, Purim, Lag b’omer and Shavuos — when a maximum of 49 people will be permitted there. Additionally, cars will not be allowed to park on Church Road for Chabad events.

The ruling is a strong setback for other municipalities who attempt to pass onerous ordinances that inhibit peaceful, constitutionally protected activitiessuch as prayers, Eruv or schools, especially when they are clearly targeted to exclude Orthodox Jews or any other ethnicity from a municipality. This was particularly evident in the Chabad case, as a non-Jewish house of worship operated nearby for many years without any variance requirement. Hateful anti-Semitic comments made at public hearings and on social media against the Jewish Center were also a focal point in the case, proving unsavory motives in the municipality’s efforts.

Roman Storzer, Esq., represented Chabad in this case, and previously won friendly verdicts in similar cases in Ocean, NJ and Pomona, NY. Attorney Storzer also represents Agudath Israel and its co-plaintiffs in their lawsuit against Jackson Township’s discriminatory ordinances against shuls, Eruvs and nonpublic schools.

“I’d just like to say that our clients are very pleased with the result and look forward to many years of a productive relationship with the community in Toms River,” said Storzer.

The reaction from community leaders in the region was swift.

“We are pleased that the federal court ruled in favor of religious freedom,and are glad to have this sad issue behind us,” said Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg of The Lakewood Vaad. “We reach out to our adversaries to please turn the page and try to resolve forthcoming issues in the spirit of good neighbors and reasonable accommodation.”

Mrs. Chanie Jacobowitz, Director of Government Affairs, Beth Medrash Govoha, stated, “We hope that today’s decision will send a message of the paramount societal importance of religious liberty and tolerance. We call on our neighbors and the municipal officials in towns throughout our region to join us in an effort to spread the message of tolerance and cooperation for the good of all.”

“Agudath Israel is overjoyed that the Chabad House can continue to serve its community,” said Rabbi Avi Schnall, Director of Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey office. “We hope that this decision will serve as a reminder to all townships that religious liberties in the United States will not be trampled upon.”

(TLS / YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

Click to add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Local

More in Local

d4de519e0f74cd183f5241a576de37bb.jpg

Democrats Promise to Revive The Russia Probe If They Win The House

adminOctober 22, 2018
b94a75efd845fa42a81d7426cfb572c9.jpg

ARRESTED AGAIN: Pizza Deliveryman Arrested By ICE At Brooklyn Military Base Jailed on Domestic Violence Charges

adminOctober 22, 2018
9295a5b0e4e835d10a34bb6203d643fe.jpg

SHIKSA?! UN Ambassador Nikki Haley Pokes Fun at Herself at NY Charity Event

adminOctober 22, 2018
8efc733738742a2a6afd4c4915afa913.jpg

NEW TOOL: Credit Card Limitations For Get Refusers In Israel

adminOctober 22, 2018
39dacafd4f9446e07b6b9c1080bc25da.jpg

SHE CAN STAY: Israel’s Supreme Court Overturns Deportation of American BDS Activist Lara Alqasem

adminOctober 19, 2018
e9c580e4876a2d0e8bd5dfacc570fe2c.jpg

U.S. Navy Helicopter Crashes On USS Ronald Reagan In Asia, Sailors Hurt

adminOctober 19, 2018
40d09691d037c70f0175319962c4fd29.jpg

Trump Organization Sues Man Who Died In Trump Tower Fire

adminOctober 19, 2018
01f7e6c814135f9890e7ba67550f5c56.jpg

Twitter Releases Archive of 10 million Tweets From State-Backed Troll Accounts

adminOctober 18, 2018
4de607e38cb91049f817c5fea9d76ce2.jpg

Trump Asks Cabinet To Cut Next Year’s Budgets By 5 Percent

adminOctober 18, 2018