Monday, February 25, 2008

Freehold Township, NJ - Your Home Is Not Your Castle

A Rabbi in Freehold Township, NJ, welcomes family, friends, and neighbors to his home on Friday to observe the Jewish Sabbath along with some other Jewish holidays. In 2007 he was informed by his Township that these gatherings violated zoning ordinances. They issued a summons charging the Rabbi with operating a house of worship. The Township also set up a video camera across the street to monitor his house, including the comings and goings of his guests. The Rabbi is fighting this in court with the help of the Rutherford Institute.

Perhaps I have missed it in the news, but I don't recall hearing of weekly football-watching parties, regular bridge nights, or other gatherings being cited because of zoning ordinances. Why would religion be singled out?

If you sell items on eBay (not as a full-time job), are you violating non-commercial zoning laws? It seems clear enough that you are not because your full-time work is elsewhere, so eBay marketing is not the main purpose of your home. Wouldn't that be true for this Rabbi?

This same thing has happened involving Christian Bible studies that are held on a weekly basis at a private home.


CrypticLife said...

If you have any experience with the orthodox Jewish community, you might be careful here. Some of them do significant remodeling on their houses to support these weekly events, which can support up to 100 people.

I suspect this issue has little or nothing to do with religion per se.

History Matters said...


Thanks for that tip. I suspect I'll be hearing more about this particular case and will keep my ears open.

In the case of the Christian Bible studies that have been similarly affected, I am much more sure that those did not involve remodeling.

I suspect, but do now know for sure, that some of the problem may be simply inconvenience caused to neighbors (which I think is implied as part of your comment). For example, if a Bible study brings several cars that overflow the house's driveway and take up spaces on the street, neighbors may not appreciate their own company having to park further away. In your example of a group of 100 people, that certainly could create a parking/traffic issue.

History Matters said...

There is a little more information on this blog, which fills in some of the blanks:

Rabbi Sues To Overturn Zoning Rules.

History Matters said...

And more...

What makes a synagogue? Rabbi, neighbors don't agree

and more...

Rabbi expands lawsuit against N.J. town

and more, talking also about illegal surveillance:

Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against NJ Officials Over Ordinance Restricting Use of Homes for Prayer Services, Illegal Surveillance of Rabbi’s Home