Yesterday, a federal court issued a final order determining that prohibiting Storzer & Associates’ client, Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov, from operating its religious boarding school for advanced Jewish studies in Ocean Township, N.J. violates federal law.
It further required the Township to permit the Yeshiva to operate its educational institution with 80 students at 1515 Logan Road in Ocean Township.
This order ends the Yeshiva’s two-year struggle to locate its facility in the Township and vindicates its constitutional rights.
The Yeshiva’s lawsuit was filed earlier this year in federal district court and alleged violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Const itution, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) and the Fair Housing Act. The Yeshiva is also represented by New Jersey attorney Donna M. Jennings of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A.
“We are grateful for this wonderful result that will permit our clients to operate their distinguished institution in Ocean Township. Zoning regulation should never be used as a tool to accommodate the unreasonable fears and prejudice of small-minded individuals desperate to keep a certain population out of their neighborhoods,” said Roman P. Storzer, the Yeshiva’s attorney. “Unfortunately, this has become all too common in New Jersey. In a rare bipartisan effort, Congress had enacted legal protections against this type of bigotry and we will seek to have these rights enforced where they are threatened.”
There are currently similar lawsuits pending against Toms River and Howell Townships.
In its Order, the federal court stated:”The determination of the BOA [Board of Adjustment] denying plaintiffs’ application is hereby reversed and the plaintiffs’ use is deemed an inherently beneficial use, and the denial of that application is determined to be a violation of RLUIPA…. The plaintiffs are hereby granted approval to operate the subject property as a religious boarding school
“I was pleased to see how quickly we were able to get a just result for our clients. It is important to remember that our Constitution, statutes and ordinances are enacted for the benefit of everyone and so despite the enormous local opposition our clients’ religious rights could not be trampled,” said Donna Jennings, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
Rabbi Shlomo Lesin, who heads the Yeshiva’s administration, remarked, “I am confident that we can build a solid relationship with this community, which is comprised of dedicated family-minded individuals, based on understanding and traditional values. We believe that the honor that we strive to bring to the name of the Al-mighty will resonate with our neighbors and foster unity and fellowship.”