Photo: CD Bank
Photo: CD Bank

US: Don't close Shabbat House!

Orthodox Jewish organizations joins in court filing in defense of Sabbath hospitality house Village of Suffern seeks to shut down

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, US largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization joined with other national Orthodox Jewish organizations in filing a “friend of the court” brief with the United States District Court in New York last week urging the court to block the Village of Suffern from closing a “shabbos house” - a facility where Sabbath observant Jews sleep, eat and pray when on the Jewish Sabbath when they have loved ones hospitalized in Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, where the Shabbat House is located.


The brief, filed in the case of Bikur Cholim, Inc. v. Village of Suffern under the aegis of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, was authored by noted Washington attorney and Institute board member Nathan Lewin.


The Shabbat House was established to serve the needs of Orthodox Jews who may not travel by car or any other mode of transit on the Jewish Sabbath so that they may fulfill two important religious obligations; observing the Sabbath and visiting the sick.


The Village of Suffern is asserting that the use of this house for this purpose violates the village’s zoning codes and that it must be shutdown.


Bikur Cholim, which operates the Shabbat House, maintains that because it exists to enable its users to fulfill religious obligations and because the zoning code would not allow such a house to be established anywhere else in Suffren, the house is protected by the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and that the Village must be enjoined from closing the facility.


The friend of the court brief filed by the UOJCA and fellow Orthodox groups is to inform the trial court of the Jewish religious underpinnings and explanations for the imperative to visit the sick and the restrictions of travel on the Sabbath. In doing so, the brief supports the plaintiffs’ argument by making the case that “by utilizing its zoning code to prevent Orthodox Jews from observing the religious duties of visiting the sick…and observing the Sabbath with no ‘compelling governmental interest, Suffern violates RLUIPA.”


Nathan J. Diament, director of the Union’s Institute who was involved in working with Congress to have RLUIPA enacted stated that "the purpose of the RLUIPA statute was to ensure that zoning codes could not be a veiled tool for religious discrimination. The fact that under the code the Shabbat House could not be located anywhere in Suffern is the best proof that the local officials want no such facility to exist. To do so is to deny the religious needs of the hospitalized patients and their loved ones. We trust that the court will rule in favor of the plaintiffs."


פרסום ראשון: 07.11.06, 16:32
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