While we celebrate the win, we also need to be mindful of the work that still lies before us
That was the word in the subject line of the email I received from our attorney Roman Storzer on Wednesday, May 5.
Nearly four years ago, Agudah filed a lawsuit against the town of Jackson, New Jersey, for establishing ordinances that banned yeshivos from being built in the town. Yes, it became illegal to build a yeshivah in Jackson, and our rabbanim advised us that we needed to sue.
A lot has happened since, but let’s fast-forward. Today, Jackson Township boasts over 1,800 families, and there are over 3,000 children attending yeshivos. But not one of those children will be attending a school in their own town. There is not a single school for these 3,000 children in Jackson.
You can imagine how thrilled I was when I opened that email to read the words “Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction is granted.” The judge ruled that the ordinances banning school construction were immediately suspended.
I was excited, very excited. Four years and finally a victory.
But then my excitement dulled a bit. I realized that although this is a major development, and yes, a reason to celebrate, we are far from the finish line.
In Toms River, New Jersey, the zoning for a shul requires two acres of land, which is impossible to find in most neighborhoods. In the new, growing community of Linden, New Jersey, the local zoning laws require an enormous amount of property for a shul, also making it nearly impossible to build one. The community of Chestnut Ridge near Monsey is entangled in lawsuits regarding permits for building houses of worship. In the town of Woodbury, New York, nearly a dozen summonses have been issued to people having legal minyanim in their homes.
I can probably fill my 450-word quota for this article by just naming the communities that are facing these sorts of issues.
We may have won a victory in Jackson, but our goal was never just to win a lawsuit. We are not a law firm — our purpose is to help frum communities grow and flourish, so that people can buy houses in new neighborhoods that allow them to have shuls to daven in and schools for their children. And unfortunately, in many of these new communities, they cannot.
So while we celebrate the win, we also need to be mindful of the work that still lies before us. That there are thousands of Yidden living in neighborhoods without proper shuls, without mikvaos or eiruvin. It reminds us that we are still in galus, and that only when Mashiach comes will we truly be welcomed in our homes in Eretz Hakodesh.
Avi Schnall is the director of Agudah’s New Jersey office.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 860)
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