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 It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” another official said, requesting that his name not be published to avoid backlash from the anti-yeshiva litigant.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.