Following seven years of litigation between Agudath Israel of America and the Jackson Township Council (the “Council”), Agudath Israel is pleased to announce that tonight the parties reached a final settlement.
In 2017, Agudath Israel filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey District Court against the Council, claiming the Council had deliberately passed zoning regulations making it impossible for Orthodox Jews to build schools and dormitories and eruvs. This violated RLUIPA, a federal law that prohibits local municipalities from imposing or implementing overly restrictive zoning and other land use regulations that significantly affect the free religious exercise of a person, assembly, or institution.
Jackson is home to thousands of Orthodox Jewish families including over 6,000 children, the vast majority of whom commute to Lakewood daily to attend school.
Agudath Israel and the Council have now finalized an agreement which allows for schools and dormitories to be built without disrupting the character of suburban life in Jackson. Moreover, the Council will pass ordinances that will allow every neighborhood to have a house of worship, eruv, and mikva. These had been previously prohibited by the Township.
“It has always been one of Agudath Israel’s priorities to simultaneously ensure that Orthodox Jews have schools for their children and maintain the quality of life for those who live in Jackson,” said Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Office.
Significantly, none of the current councilmembers sat on the Council when it was originally sued. Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Office is very grateful to the current councilmembers for their willingness to work together with the community in reaching this favorable result. Agudath Israel is also grateful to Mayor Mike Reina, a longtime partner and friend of the Jackson community, for his support.
Many Jackson residents assisted with various aspects of the litigation, and Agudath Israel thanks them all for their involvement. Every individual who testified, attended town hall meetings, and wrote letters to councilmembers contributed to this resolution.
“The past seven years were a tremendous undertaking for all those involved,” said Rabbi Shlomo Schorr, associate director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Office. “We thank the current councilmembers for their participation, cooperation, and friendship and look forward to working with them on projects for the betterment of the neighborhood in the future.”