The problems with the Lubavitch

Freehold, NJ Lubavitch chabad almost a year later “doth” still protest
July 28, 2008, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Real Estate | Tags: ,

Rabbi alleges violation of religious rights
29 August 2007
The Star-Ledger
(c) 2007 The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

A rabbi has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Freehold Township, saying local officials are conducting an illegal surveillance of his house and restricting his right to pray at his home.

The federal lawsuit was filed yesterday in Trenton on behalf of Avraham Bernstein, who is represented by the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Va.-based civil liberties group that focuses on First Amendment and religious freedom cases.

At issue is whether Bernstein, a rabbi with the ultra-orthodox Lubavitch Chabad, is allowed to host a minyan, the necessary 10 men to pray under orthodox Jewish law, at his home on Shabbat, Friday night to Saturday night.

The Monmouth County township says Bernstein, who lives in town, is violating local zoning ordinances because he is using his home as a house of worship, according to the lawsuit.

Zoning Board Finds Rabbi in Violation

July 28, 2008

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, NJ — Seven members of the township Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously decided Thursday that a local rabbi is, in fact, running a house of worship out of his home.

“If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck,” zoning board member William Nero said before the board voted. “And without question, this is a duck.”

Nero was referring to 351 Stillwells Corner Road, the home of Rabbi Avraham Bernstein.

Bernstein’s neighbors have long complained that Bernstein is running religious services out of his home, which is located across the street from the township Municipal Complex.

The township does permit houses of worship in residential areas, but requires a use variance for their operation. Bernstein — a member of the Jewish organization Chabad Lubavitch — does not have a use variance to run services out of his home.

After years of mounting frustration among his neighbors, one — Paul Sweda, who lives next to Bernstein — asked the zoning board to determine whether Bernstein is operating a house of worship in violation of the township’s zoning ordinances.

The board began hearing the case in January. During the hearing process, the board heard from several witnesses who described watching people visit Bernstein’s home on Fridays and Saturdays, and observing what they believed to be religious celebrations at the house.

Based on that testimony and their own observations, board members said they felt assured that Bernstein’s home met the definition of a house of worship. To be a house of worship, a property must be used for traditional services, meetings or gatherings of an organized religious body or community, which are presided over by an ordained or “otherwise officially recognized” leader of the body or community.

“I have heard sufficient evidence to indicate indeed this (house) is being used as a religious site,” said board Chairman Edward McCloskey.

The board chose to vote on the matter Thursday night despite written protests received from Bernstein’s new attorney, Vincent Manning of Freehold, said the zoning board’s attorney, Dennis Galvin. Manning replaced Red Bank attorney Gerald Marks.

After the vote, Sweda said he was pleased with the vote but did not want to comment at length.

“They (the board members) said it well,” Sweda said.

It was not clear what the next step would be for Bernstein, and he did not attend the hearing.

Bernstein still has remaining legal issues with the township, which he has sued in both federal and state courts. In both suits, he alleges — in part — that his constitutional rights to worship freely have been violated by the township.


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: