DISASTER FOR YESHIVAS: Lakewood Officials Scramble After Judge Blocks Yeshiva Dorm

An Ocean County judge’s upholding of a previous ruling barring Yeshiva Toras Chaim (Rabbi Slomovitz) from building a new dormitory has forced Lakewood officials into a quandary as they debate over how to stem the fallout from the ruling.

The yeshiva had proposed erecting a new dormitory to house its students, but was sued by a neighbor. Judge Marlene Ford ruled in favor of the neighbor, ruling that dorms are not a permitted use in a residential zoning district.

This is because Lakewood has never passed an ordinance explicitly permitting dormitories as accessories to yeshivas; dorms had always been allowed with the understanding that they are necessary for a yeshiva’s functioning.

The yeshiva requested a reconsideration from Judge Frances Hodgson, who denied it.

The ramifications of the ruling are now sending ripples through Lakewood – and beyond.

“It’s hard to overestimate what a threat this is to Lakewood yeshivas,” a Lakewood official who requested anonymity told Lakewood Alerts. “There are many yeshivas who rely on this implicit framework to operate. Now anybody can sue them for their dorms. It’s a disaster for yeshivas.”

“The Township Committee will be passing an ordinance to permit dormitories for yeshivas, you can bet on that. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” another official said, requesting that his name not be published to avoid backlash from the anti-yeshiva litigant.

Two other individuals intimately involved with the matter told Lakewood Alerts that the ruling’s ramifications extend beyond Lakewood as well.

In Jackson, Agudath Israel of America sued the township over its dormitory ban. This ruling now gives Jackson Township an opportunity to argue that its dorm ban wasn’t in fact discriminatory, with their proof being that Lakewood doesn’t allow dormitories either.

While there are differences between Lakewood and Jackson’s stance toward dormitories, the ruling over Lakewood’s dorms can create major headaches for yeshivas moving forward.

“We are going to fix it. We’re not going to let yeshivas be clobbered like this, no matter who is behind it,” a Lakewood official said.

Names of the individual(s) who filed this lawsuit are making the rounds. It is shocking that such prominent members of our community could be our biggest enemies. Sources tell Lakewood Alerts that Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbanim in town were approached about this, and are literally petrified of at least one of the individuals involved.

It seems this is the new norm in Lakewood. If you have an issue, you go to “Arkaos” and wreak havoc on our Mosdos.

Yesh din, v’yesh dayan.

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28 COMMENTS

    • You’re correct. There’s no reason why this dormitory application refuses to apply to the zoning board for an approval. Other yeshiva dorms have done so and received approval after working issues out with the neighbors.

      They need to cut out their gaavah attitude of stepping on other yidden just because they think they can do whatever they feel like regardless of the tzaar they cause others.

  1. The Township does have an ordinance permitting dormitories in Planned Educational Campuses such as BMG’s campus the Planning Board approved last night.

    You can build a dormitory in any other zoning districts by first getting a Use Variance from the Zoning Board.

  2. it seems that this Yeshiva in particular and others as well seem to totally ignore the requests and needs of its neighbors
    Just because you have have a Yeshiva doesn’t mean that הלכות שכנים goes out the window the same שוע that’s speaks about דיני ארכות also speaks about הלכות שכנים,הזיק ריאה וכו
    When the neighbors asked to meet with this particular Yeshiva they were laughed out the door so they brought this upon themselves
    People sometimes after many years scrap together money to buy a house (not fundraiser as the Yeshivas do) to buy a house on a nice quiet RESIDENTIAL street only to have a Yeshiva move in next door and start asking The town for all sorts of favors and variances to allow them to over build and expand as they grow
    Go to the industrial area and grow and expand don’t do it in a residential neighborhood and ruin peoples lives by moving in 300 loud rowdy teenagers
    Theirs always 2 sides (sometimes more) to every situation
    Your article seems one sided and conveniently left out the other side these neighbors begged to meet and work out a compromise but we’re rebuffed
    By the Yeshiva administration
    And the same goes in other area Yeshiva building as well יש דין ויש דיין goes both ways..
    I’m not taking any sides as it’s not nogya to me personally but when reporting on an issue the story should be balanced fair and of course true

    • It is well known, and you know as well that this yesshiva came BEFORE the neighbors. As a matter of fact, the selling point to mve out there back then, was becauese there will be a yeshiva. You know as well, there was a meeting with the neighbors prior to planning board meeting were the neighbors were offered to take off a full floor as long as they wont fight the yeshiva. and they walked out and hired a lawyer. STOP DISTORTING THE FACTS.

      • Yechiel Green,

        You’re spouting pure sheker.

        The yeshiva building was NOT there before the houses were sold and the neighbors moved in.

        Furthermore, you might feel good trying to pat yourself on the back and make up stories, but the reason people moved to the neighborhood had nothing to do with the yeshiva. In fact, most people never even knew about the yeshiva until after they moved in, and then the yeshiva got built. Of course, the neighbors did not object, because they’re all bnei torah who value and support yeshivos. And even when the hanhala went ahead and violated their approvals by almost doubling their student body, the neighbors remained silent and tolerated the shmutz the bachurim left all over their backyards and other major nuisances.

        However, when certain individuals in the mishpacha & hanhala decided that they wanted to place a brand new 4 level monstrosity on a piece of land which the neighbors were specifically promised would never ever be used that way.. and when they tried to meet with those individuals they were strong-armed, bullied, their concerns totally ignored, and all they got was an attitude of אני ואפסי עוד .. that’s when the neighborhood saw the type of אינשי דלא מעלי they were forced to deal with. So, Mr. Yechiel Green, YOU STOP DISTORTING THE FACTS!

        • You know very well that although the actual building of yeshiva was built perhaps after some homes the approval and sale to the yeshiva was BEFORE any homes and its clear from your statement the “BUILDING” wasn’t there but you acknoledge that the plans were. EVERYONE knew the yeshiva bought there. I feel bad that you think when you get up to heaven you will be able to spew all your hebrew lingo and save yourself from the gehinom that awaits you all for the chilul hashem you have created by going to secular court without ANY HETER ,to fight not only this existing yeshiva that needs more space, but all yeshivas in lakewood that now cant build a dormitory. And for all that want to respond to this with all sorts of klishe like go to zoning, what happened to nizkei shechanim etc make sure you are confident you think Hashem will agree with that. Stop fooling yourselves deep down you know the truth. And if you still think your right why dont you ask any rabbinical figure if this is approppiate so then at least after 120 you will have who to rely on. Hashem should restore the sanity of all yidden that suffer from buying into all sorts of narratives that have become mainstream on heimishe blogging and bring the geula bekorov

  3. It’s an old problem in this town, people fighting mosdos is not a new thing. Recently most mosdos (yeshivos, schools, and chadarim) have a very difficult time getting approvals for new buildings or extensions to existing buildings. It’s a real shame that people would fight these things. Then people wonder why we don’t have enough schools in this town YOU ARE NOT GIVING ANYONE THE SPACE NEEDED. Not saying that these buildings shouldn’t be built per code but let’s please support new construction for our already overloaded mosdos.

    • Everyone uses Yeshivos in this town no one is against Yeshivas
      It’s when Yeshivos take that good will as a license to do things that will affect the neighbours and have a ‘we couldn’t care less’ attitude. Where is the problem starts

  4. Why is the yeshiva’s board of directors not going to the Zoning Board like other yeshivos have? Is there something we’re not being told? What’s the rest of the story?

  5. Simcha,

    You’re correct. There’s no reason why this dormitory application refuses to apply to the zoning board for an approval. Other yeshiva dorms have done so and received approval after working issues out with the neighbors.

    They need to cut out their gaavah attitude of stepping on other yidden just because they think they can do whatever they feel like regardless of the tzaar they cause others.

    • The article is about the idea that people went to court to fight the use of dormitories. The fact that the way to get a dormitory in town from here on is to change zoning uses makes us like jackson is that what you are suggesting? Would you be ok if they tell you you cant expand your house unless you go in front of zoning to change your use?

      • Yechiel or Whoever you are,

        You keep evading the main question. Other yeshivos in Lakewood submitted their dorm applications to the Lakewood Zoning Board and got approved. Toras Chaim has that same option available to them. Why are they so scared to send their application to where it belongs?

        Is it because unlike the other yeshiva that took a genuine interest in working with neighbors so they would support their application – this yeshiva did the exact opposite and it backfired on them?

        Remember, even good neighbors which are known torah supporters don’t like getting stepped on and abused by individuals which behave like they haven’t opened a mussar sefer since they were born.

        By the way, there’s another option for a legal dorm in Lakewood, which does belong at the Planning Board – and which yeshivos have received such approvals for. If the school qualifies for a campus zone, then they’re zoned to get a dormitory too. So, if Toras Chaim wants another monster dorm all they need to do is get themselves one of many locations which can easily become a campus zone – and the problem is solved.

        In fact, further east on Ridge Avenue there’s a nice location which already received campus zone approval including a large dormitory, but has no intention of actually moving in. Perhaps Toras Chaim should sell their current building to a smaller yeshiva and move to the new place where there’s more room and they’re not forcing a fight with the neighborhood.

        I hope that the people in control of the yeshiva make the right choice and stop the machlokes already.

        • I heard toras chaim (if this doesnt work out) is considering selling this campus to waterberry yeshiva which is seeking to open lakewood location. Maybe someone should encourage them to do so if thats what the neighborhood wants

          • Sounds good. The Hanhala of Waterbury are good people with an understanding that דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה.

            Toras Chaim should be matzliach at whatever place they decide to relocate to. It’s all for the best.

  6. A “D” variance or use variance as it is commonly referred to is far from simple. They have to prove two things to the board’s satisfaction.
    First the applicant has to prove the positive criteria for why this variance furthers the public good. In the case of a school this proof is easy because according to the law a school is an inherently beneficial use. Once the positive criteria has been proven the applicant must prove the negative criteria. which means that A- the application shall not be substantially detrimental to the public good and B- it shall not substantially impair the intent and purpose of the zoning plan and the zoning ordinance. This is far from simple to prove. The federal government has even sued towns under RLUIPA for not zoning for dormitories

    If the use is conforming to the zone the negative criteria do not need to be proven.

  7. This story has a lot of holes.. The yeshiva went to the planning board and the judge said the plaanning board does not have jurisdiction. The yeshiva needs to go to the zoning board. Not so complicated and problermatic for yeshivas. Yeshivas should work out differnces with neighbors, there are numerous stories with Rac Aron Zt’l how he was so careful with neighbors. Yeshivas need to work with neighbors .

  8. Get your facts. Yeshivahs can’t steal! They don’t have a license to walk into your house and if you call the cops to remove them it’s mesirah.
    This wasn’t able to go to din torah as they were told the plaintiff was the township who was illegally aproving something they shouldn’t be doing to you have sue in court. The Yeshiva is at fault as when they originally got approved on condition they would not have a dorm there. The neighbours were willing to allow something ( because we are all pro Yeshiva) but this administration took advantage of that, and said they would not sit down and do whatever they want. Ha ha to bad on you!
    With one to talk to the had no choice but to go to court.
    So now because of one yeshiva acting not Torah’dick the whole lakewood will suffer.
    It’s unfortunate that people are running such a institution, do not follow the book that they teach

    • Practice what you preach is not something they teach in this particular yeshiva.
      They’re only makpid on the ללמוד, but not the לעשות.

  9. If you want to expand your house, you don’t have to apply to either the planning or the zoning board. You can easily just a get an administrative approval. However, if you want a variance which is a deviation from the twp code, then of course you’d have to apply to either planning or zoning (depending on the request applied for). In fact, it’s quite common in Lakewood for regular homeowners to submit applications to zoning for items like taller than allowed fences, etc..

    So, what’s this yeshiva making such an unnecessary fuss about? Why are they different than anyone else in town that had to go to zoning?

  10. Probably the best idea for the neighbors would be to get hundreds of out of town girls to dorm in their homes. High School, Post seminary, etc. That would end the issue of putting a yeshiva dorm there and instead of costing money for lawyers and court fees would be income producing for the neighbours.

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