Roosevelt, NJ - Congregants and students affiliated with a yeshiva and synagogue have been subject to a relentless campaign of harassment by the borough, a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court says.
The suit alleging attempts to restrict religious freedom comes a month after the local Planning Board reversed a zoning officer's decision allowing the establishment of a yeshiva.
The yeshiva opened to controversy in September 2005 with a freshman class of 12, with yeshiva opponents saying the 2-square-mile municipality of about 1,000 residents lacked the resources to handle the impact of the extra activity.
Attorney Bruce D. Shoulson filed the lawsuit on behalf of Congregation Yeshivas Me'on Hatorah and Congregation Anshei Roosevelt. Numerous borough-appointed and elected officials are named as defendants, including Mayor Beth Battel.
Shoulson, said the lawsuit seeks to overturn the Planning Board's July 24 decision that the operation of the yeshiva on the premises of the synagogue is not in compliance with zoning ordinances.
The yeshiva's executive vice president, Joshua Pruzansky, said organizers had considered Roosevelt a good location to open a yeshiva.
"We considered the town a perfect model of stability, tranquillity and tolerance," Pruzansky said. "We were, to say the least, shocked by the reception that we received."
Residents in 2006 ousted Mayor Neil Marko from office in a recall vote, which Shoulson said was a result of Marko's support for the yeshiva. Zoning changes were created, and other legal roadblocks were erected, Shoulson said.
The yeshiva, a high school for Orthodox Jewish boys, started its third year earlier this month, Pruzansky said. He said the yeshiva has 50 students in grades 9, 10 and 11.
Four houses associated with the yeshiva have been cited by the state Department of Community Affairs as being improper multiperson dwellings. [APP]