Roosevelt Yeshiva Continues to Battle, Granted Stay to Avoid Irreparable Harm


rooseveltJennifer Kohlhepp of The Examiner reports: The yeshiva in Roosevelt will have to reduce its student population to 12 come June, or possibly sooner.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson, sitting in Freehold Nov. 13, ruled that Yeshiva Me’on Hatorah could continue operating in the Homestead Lane synagogue pending its appeal of a decision he made earlier this year.

Lawson ordered the yeshiva Aug. 28 to apply for a variance before the borough’s Planning and Zoning Board to continue operating in the synagogue. As of Oct. 5, the yeshiva had not applied for a variance. The Roosevelt Preservation Association petitioned the borough to enforce the judgment. The borough filed a motion with the court asking to enforce the judgment by ceasing the yeshiva’s operations at a date to be determined by Lawson. The yeshiva filed a motion, asking to stay in operation pending the appeal.

The judge said the yeshiva would face irreparable harm if forced to close. He said students would be without a school and faculty would be without jobs, and both would be without a place to practice their religious beliefs if the school were to close.

Lawson also said closing the school during the variance procedure would affect Congregation Anshei Roosevelt, which leases the synagogue to the yeshiva. He received testimony from Congregation Anshei Roosevelt President Neil Marko stating that the congregation depends on the yeshiva for financial support and rabbinical services and would likely close if the school closed.

The judge also based his decision on weighing the potential harm to the yeshiva against the potential harm to Roosevelt. He said that while some residents have complained about students convening in the street and increased traffic as a result of yeshiva operations, “these are mere annoyances that are incompatible to the irreparable harm to the yeshiva.” Lawson also noted that he took into account certified statements from residents such as Robert Clark, Bob Dermody and Pat Moser that stated the yeshiva has had no negative effect on the community.

Lawson granted the stay “despite the court’s findings that the plaintiffs won’t ultimately prevail on the appeal.” His decision also stated that the yeshiva would have to decrease its enrollment to 12 students, which was the student population at the time of the borough’s initial review of its operations in 2005.

“You’ve got to get rid of 19,” Lawson told the yeshiva’s attorney Bruce D. Shoulson.

The judge also ordered the yeshiva to file its appeal by Nov. 20 or the stay would be vacated. If the stay is vacated, the yeshiva would have 20 days to file a variance application. If the yeshiva does not file, “then the borough can enforce the ordinance and close the yeshiva because it would be operating illegally,” Lawson said.

After Lawson rendered his decision, Shoulson asked the court to consider allowing the 31 students currently enrolled at the yeshiva to remain there until June, when classes end.

Attorney Ronald S. Gasiorowski, who represents the Roosevelt Preservation Association, told Lawson that his clients would not accept a student population of 31 until the end of the year. The borough’s special counsel, Howard Cohen, also requested the student population return to 12.

Gasiorowski and Cohen also took issue with a statement from yeshiva Rabbi Yisroel Eisenberg regarding the current number of students. While Eisenberg testified having 31 students, Gasiorowski, Cohen, and Planning and Zoning Board Attorney Michele Donato reported 17.

Lawson ordered the yeshiva to present the number of students, student names and information regarding when students expect to leave the yeshiva this year to him at 2 p.m. Nov. 17. He asked for a yeshiva representative to appear before him at that time to provide testimony regarding the student population.

Donato said she would seek student immunization records from the Monmouth County Board of Health to substantiate the information presented by the yeshiva representative.

Lawson said regardless of whether he decides Nov. 17 that the school should continue with 12 or 31 students to June, “after this school term is over, the number is 12.”

The Nov. 17 hearing happened after the Examiner’s deadline Nov. 16.

{The Examiner/ Newscenter}