Kehillah Sues Clifton Again Over Stalled Shul Plan


clifton-shulClifton, NJ – An Orthodox Jewish congregation is again suing the city, demanding a fair hearing for its proposal to develop a house of worship at Virginia Avenue and Dwasline Road.

The lawsuit by Congregation Shomrei Torah comes after the city’s Planning Board and Board of Adjustment refused to hear its application for a new synagogue and mikvah, or ritual bath, in the Rosemawr neighborhood, congregation officials said.

The synagogue plan has produced a flurry of legal briefs, and the combatants have appeared before a judge twice in the 2 1/2 years since the plan was first submitted.

The latest complaint, filed Oct. 18 in state Superior Court, asserts that the Board of Adjustment (zoning board) arbitrarily deprived Shomrei Torah of its right to have the synagogue application heard.

The congregation’s lawyer, Frank Carlet of Clifton, accused city boards and professionals of conspiring to violate the religious land use act. The congregation is asking the judge to compel the zoning board to quickly hear its case.

“It’s been 2 1/2 years, and they still won’t hear our case,” said David Gross, president of Shomrei Torah, who moved to Clifton from Passaic 11 years ago. “We want to be good neighbors and aren’t violating any laws. Our plan doesn’t require any variances … We just want to be heard.”

The plan calls for an addition to a stately Dwasline Road home that will transform it into an 18,000-square-foot temple with a sanctuary that can seat 124 worshipers, a multipurpose room, a mikvah, a warming kitchen and a residence for the rabbi. The plan also calls for a parking lot and landscaping around the area.

Most of the worshipers live around the Rosemawr neighborhood and meet in a rented space in a school in Passaic. Many Orthodox Jews have moved from Passaic to Clifton in recent years and have established synagogues within walking distance of their new homes. A mikvah is a necessity in the neighborhood. The nearest one now is on Van Houten Street in Passaic.

At the heart of the conflict is the question of whether the congregation requires variances, or zoning board-approved deviations from zoning law. Carlet said that a house of worship is a permitted use in the residential neighborhood. The project meets all the requirements with no need for variances, he said.

The other side disagrees.

John Pogorelec, the zoning board attorney, said zoning officials found problems with the synagogue’s parking and landscaping plans, and the Planning Board refused to hear the application until the zoning board grants variances for those plans, he said.

The synagogue proposal also has aroused the ire of residents who say it’s too large and would have a negative impact.

Mary Sadrakula, a city councilwoman who lives on Dwasline Road, formed a neighborhood group, Protect Our Neighborhood, to raise funds and hire a lawyer, Ira Weiner, to fight the project.

Fred Komarow, who lives nearby, has joined Sadrakula’s fight against Shomrei Torah.

“I have nothing against a synagogue being built here,” he said. “It just shouldn’t be in that particular location, based on the scope of the plan.”

{Deena Yellin-The Record/ Newscenter}


  1. In Passaic/ Clifton, the goyim make it very difficult for yidden to open up shuls. Everything is an issue and hurdle. One must go before meetings, zoning committee’s and courts to get an approval for any type of shul. The neighbors hate the yidden and the Jewish politicians are in kahoots with them

  2. Interesting, I was in clifton a few times in the past few months. They have a nice few freshly built masques there. Interesting how that got up there. But the Shul is a problem.