Sunday, April 03, 2016

Allegedly Restrictive Zoning Regulations At Center Of Another Civil Rights Suit; Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Says Central Jersey Town's Land Use Laws Prohibiting Small Weekly Prayer Service In His Home Violates Fair Housing, Religious Land Use Laws

In Toms River, New Jersey, the Asbury Park Press reports:
  • A federal civil rights lawsuit charges that "anti-Semitic hostility" and local opposition to the township's ultra-Orthodox Jewish population are the reasons why the Chabad Jewish Center has been told it needs a variance to operate as a house of worship.(1)

    The Chabad Jewish Center and Rabbi Moshe Gourarie filed the lawsuit against the township and the Board of Adjustment, claiming the Chabad has become the target of community opposition to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in Toms River.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, challenges the township's zoning laws and the board's decision that the rabbi needs a variance to continue to operate a house of worship out of his Church Road home. A hearing on the variance is scheduled for next month.

    The lawsuit says the Chabad has become a target in spite of its "negligible land use effect on the local community and its existence at this location and another residential home in Toms River for 12 years without negative impacts.".

    Gourarie previously operated the Chabad from a home he was renting on New Hampshire Avenue.

    In 2011, Gourarie purchased a home on Church Road, where he has testified that he's operated a Jewish community center and weekly prayer services, which draw about 15 to 20 people. A 2009 revision to the township's zoning ordinance banned churches in the residential zone that includes Gourarie's property.

    "Substantial community opposition to both the Chabad's use and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in general, has targeted the Chabad," according to lawyer Roman P. Storzer, of Storzer & Greene in New York and Washington, D.C., who represents the Chabad Jewish Center.(2)
Source: Chabad files suit, challenges TR zoning laws.

For the lawsuit, see Chabad Jewish Center of Toms River Inc., et ano, v. Township of Toms River, N.J., et ano. (Editor's Note: lawsuit contains highly-charged allegations; not recommended reading for those who are highly sensitive or easily offended).
(1) The lawsuit alleges violations of both the federal Fair Housing Act and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

(2) Storzer reportedly noted that more than 1,200 residents attended the board’s hearing on the Chabad’s application for a use variance, which had to be moved to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. See Chabad Suit Claims 'Rising Tide Of Anti-Semitism' Influenced Toms River Zoners (Federal lawsuit says refusal to allow religious services in rabbi's home violates 1st, 14th Amendments, was spurred by public opinion). restrictive zoning

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