The knowledge that “if you zone out Orthodox synagogues, you zone out Orthodox Jews” has been an ugly reality that our families and communities have had to face.

Among the most formidable obstacles to the free exercise of religion today relates to the limitations imposed upon houses of worship by local zoning and land use laws. Restrictions on places to worship and other religious entities have been sought and utilized in some cases as a discriminatory means of keeping some religious groups from moving in and settling in specific towns and neighborhoods.This is particularly true in regard to the Orthodox Jewish community, whose Sabbath laws require synagogues to be within walking distance of its adherents, and therefore within, or close to, residential areas.

Agudath Israel of America therefore hailed yesterday’s unanimous decision by the Clifton (New Jersey) City Council to settle their decade-old zoning discrimination case with Congregation Shomrei Torah. The $2.5 million landmark settlement is one of the largest-ever recoveries under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). See here for more details and quotes from our New Jersey director, Rabbi Avi Schnall, and our New Jersey office co-chairman Duvy Gross.  Earlier this week, Rabbi Schnall delivered an invocation in Lakewood and then headed to Washington, DC for the Congressional swearing-in ceremonies.

In the neighboring state of New York, Agudah announced a breakthrough with the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

No, not with “substantially equivalent” nonpublic school guidelines (for updates on that issue, go to https://yeshivosbychoice.org/). In this case, our director of education affairs, Mrs. Deborah Zachai, worked with NYSED for over a year to address the Suffern School District’s failure to provide certain basic services to yeshiva students such as transportation, special education services and others. See here for the full story.

Finally, if you missed the Midwest Agudah Convention and are still looking for “clarity,” you can watch the highlight video above (click on image) and you can view the session videos at https://www.agudahmidwestconvention.org/videos-2018/