New York – U.S. Justice Department Intervenes In New Jersey Chabad Land Use Dispute


    FILE - Rabbi Moshe Gourarie from New Jersey looks at a room riddled with bullet marks from the 2008 terror attack at the Chabad Center, during the reopening of the Jewish center in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014.  (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)The United States Justice Department has launched an investigation into a local land use dispute in Toms River, New Jersey involving a Chabad shul.

    The inquiry comes amid an ongoing quarrel between Rabbi Moshe Gourarie, who operates a Chabad shul out of his home located at 2001 Church Road, and the township over whether the rabbi needs a zoning variance to run the Chabad Jewish Center from his home, the Asbury Park Press reports ( In 2009, Toms River revised its zoning ordinance laws to prohibit churches from operating in residential areas. Rabbi Gourarie’s bought his home in 2011.

    In 2014, Gourarie was issued eight zoning violations for running the Chabad Center in a residential neighborhood. He pleaded not guilty in Municipal Court, saying he has weekly prayer services for about 15 or 20 people, and that he runs a Jewish community center at the location.

    In response to the violations, Gourarie filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the zoning board and the town, alleging that “anti-Semitic hostility” and disdain for the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are behind the dispute and request for a variance. The lawsuit states that Chabad has been the focus of the town even though the shul has a “negligible land use effect on the local community and its existence at this location and another residential home in Toms River for 12 years without negative impacts.”

    The rabbi had requested permission to continue running the shul out of his home, while adhering to “limits” set forth by the zoning board, which was denied. Over 1,200 people attended a recent, contentious zoning board hearing about the shul. Many residents expressed concerns about Gourarie’s future plans for the site and said they thought the rabbi deliberately ignored the town’s zoning laws. “Substantial community opposition to both the Chabad’s use and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in general, has targeted the Chabad,” said Roman Storzer, the attorney representing the shul.

    In an April 28 letter to Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher, acting chief of the Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section Sameena Shina Majeed wrote, “Our investigation will focus on the Township’s zoning laws affecting religious land uses. We are also reviewing, as part of our investigation, the Township’s requirement that Rabbi Moshe Gourarie obtain a use variance in order to engage in religious worship and educational activities at 2001 Church Road.”
    Acting Chief Majeed also indicated that the Justice Department would determine whether Toms River was in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a 2000 law, which forbids towns from using land use rules to inflict a “substantial burden” on religious freedom “absent a compelling justification” that doing so would be in the government’s interest.

    The Justice Department has requested a slew of documents from the town to verify if they have violated RLUIPA in this matter.

    Mayor Kelaher, who, last March, referred to the burgeoning Orthodox community as “like an invasion” declined to comment on the Justice Department’s probe or the lawsuit, but said he was “very optimistic” that it would soon be settled. Kelaher has since said his remarks were taken out of context, and that he was referring to the barrage of real estate brokers in the North Dover section looking to buy homes in that area on behalf of their Orthodox clients.

    Gourarie is now in talks with Congregation B’nai Israel to potentially relocate the Chabad to a different campus on Old Freehold Road.

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    1. Once and for all, we should take a stand against operating shtieblach in residential neighborhoods zoned exclusively for single family housing. If someone invests their life-savings in a home where they are seeking quiet and isolation with no issues of noise, parking etc. they are entitled to know that the zoning rules will be enforced. There is zero basis in daas torah or simple good citizenship to parachute in and impose yourself in the neighborhood against the law and against you neighbors wishes. It is ganavah to steal their quality of life just because some rebellah wants to have his own shtielbel

      • Chillax with the animosity. I know this situation personally the exterior of the house is perfectly clean. No cars or noise. As for your thorough knowledge of daas Torah, no one’s impressed. Be careful not to despise Jews so speedy, makes you sound like a hillbilly from Kentucky.
        Btw what’s gennavah?

      • I might have said I agree with you a few years ago. A shul near me fought to be allowed to open in an upscale residential neighborhood,called Hancock Park.Most of the homes are almost 100 years old and are magnificent. Those opposed to the shul said neighborhood atmosphere and architecture required preservation. Sounds fair right? Well,a couple of years ago an exclusive all girls prep school,also in the same neighborhood,just a few blocks from the shul,wanted to expand.
        They bought and demolished 12 also magnificent homes. There didn’t seem to be any opposition to that.

    2. The funny thing is that Toms River is like picking on the wrong guy. Chabad next to a frum community generally don’t take off too much. Look at the chabad shuls n flatbush. They should study the jewish demographics and society better.

    3. Do your research before you comment
      Look at chabad of five towns or chabad in Monroe the list goes on these pepole are straight out antisemites don’t you get wake up already

    4. I have experienced the loss of quality of life due to a shul. Can Vos Iz Neis kindly get a reputable Rov who is comfortable attaching his name to address the general halacah’s involved? Obviously, every case would be different but at least us homeowners would be asking the appropriate questions!

    5. To Lakewooder . I wonder who has more bias against chabad or you. Get your facts straight the Chabad shul on ave J is very popular and packed on shabos mostly with non chabad mispalilim. The rov Rabbi Markov is a massive Talmud chochom who spends his week learning he was part of Chayim Berlin kolel for many years although a musmach from chabad . The ship has an adjacent building that hosts the Baal Shem library which yidden from all over visit.The president of the shul Rabbi Muss is a big philanthropist who himself and his family support many non chabad yeshivas. So before you knock chabad open your mind and heart on lag beomer and have ahavas yisroel after all that is what lag beomer is about the talmidei rav Akiva had yeshua today.Besides if chabad

    6. Isn’t that what #2 is saying? That Chabad is not even the problem.

      It’s funny (in a not funny way). The people of Toms River are in a panic about all of the Lakewood people moving in and they are looking at this Chabad rabbi as a confirmation of their very worst fears. As in, “You see we told you this would happen. Lakewood decides to take over our town and they’re already stuffing synagogues into homes!” Never mind that R’ G. has been in Toms River for a while now, and doing great work there at that. And never mind that Lakewood and Chabad are two separate entities. They just see the scary black hats…

      It’s easy to make these mistakes, especially when one gets their information from online. So much animosity and confusion would be alleviated if only people would take the time to get to know the people they are complaining about in real life, on a personal level.


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