Agudath Israel of America notes, with appreciation, the recent zoning law change in the Village of Chestnut Ridge. This new set of zoning laws, passed by the Village last Thursday, makes it possible for local faith communities, including Orthodox Jews, to establish houses of worship in residential areas, subject to meeting village requirements. This matter has been contentious in Chestnut Ridge, as it has been in a number of municipalities over the last 25 years.

Agudath Israel notes that the model employed by the Chestnut Ridge officials is one that recognizes that communities have differing needs; that even within communities there may be different ways of fulfilling the same objective; and that working together with the local community in a collaborative effort has been the only way to come to amicable solutions and avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.

Under the leadership of Mayor Rosario “Sam” Presti, the Village of Chestnut Ridge adopted a three-tier zoning system for houses of worship, in which the zoning requirements increase correspondingly to the use-capacity of the planned house of worship.

“Mayor Presti and the Chestnut Ridge Board of Trustees did the right thing,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Washington Director. “By taking a controversial issue and coming up with a solution that can work, they showed that they care for the rights of each individual in their community.” Agudath Israel’s Washington Office played a key role in crafting and promoting the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, legislation that protects against undue discrimination against houses of worship and other religious entities in local zoning laws.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s Executive Vice President, concurred. “What the Board of Trustees did last Thursday was a beautiful example of civic responsibility. You can never please everyone in every situation, and I’m sure that there are those on both side of the debate who are disappointed with various details of the law. But this solution is a fair one, and the Board of Trustees deserve much credit.”