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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/16/19 6:03 A

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And PS if they were so sneaky, why announce the intention TWO FULL YEARS BEFORE CONSTRUCTION BEGAN?

"In 2014, the Rivkins announced a plan to expand the Chabad House and applied for a building permit for a “parsonage,” a house for clergy provided by a religious institution. That permit was denied, and Rivkin instead applied for a permit for a residential addition, which was granted. Construction on the 4,400-square-foot addition in front of the original house began in June 2016 and cost $800,000, according to court documents."

If I were to pull a fast one, I never would have announced it. So why no protest from the time of the announcement to the time of the build two years later?

And, truth be told, the way Chabad has it set up for their shluchim, it IS housing for their emissaries. They needed more room as a family of nine PLUS for their Shabbat guests. Which, interestingly, did not bother the neighbors before the build. I don't know if I would have been that generous seeing upwards of 25 students on a weekly basis come into my neighborhood. But what is implied, that even with all that foot traffic (no cars), they were quiet enough not to disturb the ambience of the neighborhood and their neighbors' lives.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/16/2019 (06:05)
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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/16/19 5:50 A

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And this paragraph explained why:

"The Rivkins said the house felt too small for their growing family — both their biological family, and their “family” of students."

You don't live the culture so you don't get it.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/16/2019 (05:51)
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BOSS61's Photo BOSS61 Posts: 6,655
1/16/19 5:33 A

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... and reapplying for the permit as a residential improvement was even more deceptive.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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PHEBESS's Photo PHEBESS Posts: 45,161
1/16/19 1:17 A

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This paragraph from the original article says it all:

"In 2008, Jewish organization Friends of Lubavitch, also known as Chabad-Lubavitch, purchased the house on Aigburth Road, according to court documents, to be used as a Chabad House, a Jewish outreach center and home to the rabbi that runs it. Rivkin, now 36, and his wife Sheiny, 32, moved in to serve as shluchim, or emissaries, focusing on Jewish students at Towson University and Goucher College."

A Chabad House is more than just home to the rabbi - therefore it isn't just a parsonage, but also a community center (or outreach center as the article referred to it). So applying for a permit under "parsonage" was deceptive.

"Dance as if no one is watching."


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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/15/19 1:05 P

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Didn't say you did. Just clarifying his profession.

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1/15/19 11:00 A

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Side note to Nu's side note:

I didn't say that Heilman's choice of words isn't offensive or negative or biased or misleading or anything else without shadow.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/15/19 9:14 A

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I have no reason to believe that the judge would not know the meaning of "truculent".

When Chabad raises the spectre of anti-Semitism in this case, I will agree it is out of bounds (like calling the race card elsewhere).

Chabad invested $800,000+ to construct the addition. The government had every right of refusal when the permit request was presented. The fact that it was granted, erroneously or otherwise, is the crux of the issue. You go and spend $800,000-plus and have to face it being all torn down and see how you would feel. If the Chabad rabbi appeared a bit "hot under the collar", I could see how that would happen.

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BOSS61's Photo BOSS61 Posts: 6,655
1/15/19 8:16 A

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I know the judge personally. When in private practice as an attorney, she was a client of my firm. She is mild-mannered, sweet, kindly, and smart. Not one to speak imprecisely. If she said truculent, she knew the meaning and applied the term in accordance with her intent.

I'm just unable to agree with the Chabad side of things here.

Edited by: BOSS61 at: 1/15/2019 (08:16)
"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/15/19 5:30 A

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Side note to Sylph: Heilman is a sociologist. (I, unfortunately, had to read the full article several times.) I have seen him called upon in the past in matters of Judaism. Like Sandy, I find his verbiage as noted here, particularly offensive, and it conveys misinformation about Chabad, to a public that would take him at his word.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/15/19 5:27 A

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And, as always, there are two sides to every story. Zoll claims the rabbi said, "I was as honest as I could be TO GET THE PERMIT [emphasis mine]."

The rabbi's version of what he said to Zoll was "I was as honest as I could be."

Don't paraphrase on what is being said. That's bias. There were TWO versions of that same conversation.



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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/15/19 5:14 A

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I find the word "truculent" offensive. It shows lack of respect. And, perhaps, bias on the court's part.

The "parsonage" application was reasonable. Why not? It is similar to what a church gives their live-in clergy. Chabad does the same.

And, Phebe, read the article again: The rabbi (or his wife, I forget right now which), noted they need more space for their growing family as well as their "outreach family" (now I am paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it). They were being truthful what the intent was for the expansion.

It is sad that before the expansion all sides appeared to have been accommodating. It is sad that it has escalated to this point.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/15/2019 (05:20)
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BOSS61's Photo BOSS61 Posts: 6,655
1/15/19 5:07 A

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Paraphrasing, the rabbi was a "honest as he could be without jeopardizing permit issuance." Acknowlegement of less than complete candor. And on top of that, adopting a truculent demeanor. What I expect our of a rabbi is what I expect about of a President: dignity and demeanor fitting the position.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/15/19 4:51 A

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Okay, in the first place, why is the rabbi being "deceptive"? He applied for a permit for a "parsonage". A parsonage is defined as a residence supplied by a church. Doesn't Chabad provide housing for their shluchim? The rabbi may have been looking for a break under the parsonage rule, which seems reasonable. If that was denied, what was the alternative?

Second: My sister's new place has six bedrooms and three baths in their new digs in Baltimore, and right now only two live there. They have a large family, if family stays over. In their MA home, as their family expanded to four kids, they expanded the kitchen to more than double the original size. With this rabbi and his seven kids, as the kids get older, expansion is reasonable. That's nine people already in the house. If, as a Chabad rabbi, he wants to fulfill his duty for Chabad outreach, they need more space for that purpose.

And if there was not reasonable space in the back, as was pointed out, why not consider expanding vertically rather than horizontally? This is why you employ an architect to give you legal options. The city fell down on the job issuing the permit. That's the way I see it.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/15/2019 (05:16)
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PHEBESS's Photo PHEBESS Posts: 45,161
1/15/19 12:30 A

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It certainly seems that this rabbi was less than completely honest. He first submitted plans as a "parsonage," right? When that was denied, labelled it "residential" and that was passed. Neither was completely true - there is no way a 4,000 sq ft addition would only be used for six kids - that's 666 sq feet per kid. HUGE amount of space. It obviously is expanding the house to use the additional space for their "outreach" services - meals, religious services, etc. Definitely a community place that is part of their mission, and nothing to do with their residence.

"Dance as if no one is watching."


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BOSS61's Photo BOSS61 Posts: 6,655
1/14/19 8:29 P

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I'm outraged if its even half-true that the rabbi knew he was being deceitful or dishonet in the permit application, and nevertheless pursued this course of action knowingly. It's also a miscarriage of the trust donors place in him to use their resources wisely.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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1/14/19 7:27 P

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It looks like the neighborhood group found the wording re the setback distance in the deed for the Chabad's property.

This leaves me with multiple questions.

Why didn't the Chabad property owner know what the setback distance was, if this was written in the deed? Why didn't they have the architect design the addition to comply with the setback regulation?

If the property owner didn't have the deed in hand, was it filed with the city/county? If so, this would be at the Assessor's Office, right? Which then grants the permit? So why didn't they check the deed to be sure the addition complied with the setback regulation?

I would agree that the Chabad rabbi is being evasive - to apply for a permit for a "parsonage" and be turned down, only to turn around and apply for a "residential permit" is manipulative and evasive - especially knowing that it isn't a simple residence only for the family.

Legally, this is a mess.

Would the neighbors have been happier if the size of the addition had been reduced in order to comply with the setback distance? That seems like the wisest compromise to me.

And yes, the wording within the original article does smack of some prejudice. On the other hand, the rebbe is definitely being underhanded in this situation, and crying "anti-Semetism" isn't the answer nor is it accurate in this case.

"Dance as if no one is watching."


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BOSS61's Photo BOSS61 Posts: 6,655
1/14/19 3:02 P

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Yes, dated today.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/14/19 2:50 P

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If Mark posted it now, I would guess very recent, as in a day or so.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/14/19 2:47 P

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Perhaps, but he is called upon to frame Orthodox customs, and the language used is not true to who they are.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/14/19 2:45 P

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Of course it's different. Unconsciously, perhaps, our editor showed his own bias.

When you summarize like that, it's like playing the children's game of "Telephone". Where we start is not where we end. And the outline did not reflect the true nature of the article, nor Heilman's own ugly bias, as Sandy and I already noted.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/15/2019 (13:35)
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SYLPHINPROGRESS's Photo SYLPHINPROGRESS SparkPoints: (107,921)
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1/14/19 2:40 P

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I caught that, too, but he's a sociologist or historian, not a spokesperson for the people he studies.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/14/19 2:38 P

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I have heard of Heilman. According to Mark's article, he is an "expert" on Orthodox Judaism. If he is truly the spokesperson to show the world what Orthodox Judaism is, heaven help us. He does us no favors.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/15/2019 (04:55)
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1/14/19 2:24 P

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Your quotations and paraphrases tell me that reading the full article is in order. The quotes have me angry.
------------------------------
Done, and it's quite different. How recent is this particular article?

Edited by: SYLPHINPROGRESS at: 1/14/2019 (14:38)
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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/14/19 1:46 P

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Yeah, "we" are the "normal" Jews. We look just like you. We don't wear the odd fur hats or white stockings.

Do you hear the tone running through this thread?

And they wonder why Jews are so divisive.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/15/2019 (13:43)
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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/14/19 1:38 P

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I noticed the bias, too, Sandy. It was the Heilman quotes, not so much the author of the piece: "They use their families...". That sentence was appalling. Chabadniks live by example. There are no strong-armed tactics. They will politely ask you, if you are a Jew and if you would be interested in lighting candles or laying tefillin. They do this in a light, non-threatening, non-pushy way. If you decline, they go on to another person. That has been my experience and I have seen them often in New York on the streets, especially during the holidays.

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BOSS61's Photo BOSS61 Posts: 6,655
1/14/19 1:24 P

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This ran in the Baltimore Sun.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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1/14/19 1:17 P

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Sandy – you said it perfectly. Here in Orange County and specifically Chester the same problems are arising. We haven't run into these problems with the Chabads but oy those Hasidim.

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1/14/19 1:08 P

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I don't know in what publication that article was published, but I find sentences like this: "Chabad followers, with their beards and traditional dress and public menorah lightings, practice a blatant, “in-your-face Orthodoxy.” " are telling in the article's slant. The term "in your face" has a definitive negative connotation, as an aggressive act. I know a lot of Chabadnicks. While Chabad serves as an outreach organization, they are far from in your face.

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NUMD97's Photo NUMD97 Posts: 10,115
1/14/19 12:40 P

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Chabad did not "flout" regulations. That is the problem with the Cliff Notes version: it eliminated important elements that were cited in the original full article (not surprised). They petitioned for a permit. They presented the plans for what they were going to develop. The city approved. The onus, then, was on the city. Not Chabad.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/14/2019 (13:11)
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1/14/19 12:04 P

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No. We do not know him.

Same black hat and beard. Different guy.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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1/14/19 11:58 A

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Mark, is this the same rabbi who invited you to dinner a few years ago?

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1/14/19 11:34 A

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It's that very aggressiveness that is so off-putting.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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1/14/19 11:23 A

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I neglected to add that the unfortunate fallout from this expansion into surrounding communities is creating an atmosphere of fear and loathing, which is tearing the community apart. It's happening in areas like Monroe County 20 miles north of me, the Five Towns in Nassau County and Lakewood, New Jersey.

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1/14/19 11:17 A

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They cry antisemitism. We cry that the aggressive actions of the Chabad focus the rest of the world on "Jews are weird" and "Jews play fast and loose with regulations and ordinances."

Bad, all around.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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1/14/19 11:06 A

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This is a common occurrence here in rockland, especially my village of Airmont, where the growth of Orthodox families is exponential. When I go out on Saturdays, I see men with striemels walking from shul, where just a year ago there were none, There's a constant battle between the Hasidic community and the Village over the establishment of religious institutions. Depending on whose version you believe, the Hasidim are ignoring zoning laws and build without permit, or the village is intentionally making life difficult for the Hasidim by delay and stall tactics in approving permits. What really burns me is that the common tactic now is that when the orthodox community doesn't get their way, they immediately cry anti-semitism. While I respect the need for people to have the right to worship, the rise of places of worship in the midst of residential communities pushes the limits to what the community can stand in terms of noise, impact on parking,etc.

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1/14/19 11:03 A

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Unclear is whether there is space for construction at the rear. My bet is no (its a tight neighborhood, lot-size wise), which is how we got here. With the addition garishly in front.

"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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1/14/19 10:45 A

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Thank you. I much appreciate the brief version.

That was a bad move on the part of Chabad. Any entity that flouts regulations is not a good neighbor and certainly will leave a bad taste. It's upsetting that, when it is Jews who behave badly, the fact that they 're Jews becomes the major part of the reaction. Had a church done the same, the religion would not have been viewed as the chief offense.

My contact with Chabad folks is greatly limited (approached perhaps six times in my life, the last being a young boy last month or last year asking if I'm Jewish and then did I want a box of Chanukah candles -- never mind that the festival had ended a few days earlier) and I don't think I'd say "offbeat," unless, Mark, you only mean that they don't look like everyone else.

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1/14/19 10:44 A

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I do not believe they are creating "caravans". They purposely chose walking distance from the college so the students could walk over on Shabbat. IF there has been 35-plus cars visiting on a regular basis, then yes, that would ruin the peace in the neighborhood. But I don't think it's that.

It is really unfortunate, that while the litigations were ongoing, building continued. The first thing -- the very first thing -- should have been a stop work order till the situation was decided (and resolved) in court. That was a very serious error which compounded the situation.

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/14/2019 (12:33)
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1/14/19 10:38 A

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The fault lies with the issuance of the permit. That's my version.

Having said that, you cannot have communal dinners of 25-plus people on a regular basis in a residential area without disrupting the "calm" of the neighborhood. It sounds like the neighbors were pretty tolerant of that if, by the Chabadniks' own admission, they hosted regular Shabbat dinners for 25 or more people. In a dining room serviceable for six, this is not realistic. The rabbi's family was already nine. The expansion was a reasonable alternative. The location, apparently was not.

Had the permit been issued correctly in the first place, and the addition designed for the back of the house, as required by law, none of this would have evolved, probably. The Chabadniks may not have liked that, but with no alternative, they probably would have lived with it, considering the fact that they have been in the neighborhood for years, living peaceably with their neighbors, it is really unfair of Chabad to now say 'Antisemite!" It really does not compute.

The fairest thing probably, in my estimation, if at all possible, would be the government somehow notes it erred in giving the permit as written, offer some monetary compensation (ha, I know), and rebuild behind the current main residence, where it should have been in the first place. If not, they are going to contend with very ugly neighbors for the foreseeable future. And who wants that?

Edited by: NUMD97 at: 1/15/2019 (05:10)
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1/14/19 10:23 A

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1. Chabad House seeks to expand. Localted in a residential neighborhood.
2. Cannot expand under present zoning. Residential expansions are permissible; institutional land uses are not.
3. Chabad applied for "residential" building permit for monstrous (4,000 square foot) expansion of their "house."
4. House can now accomodate 35 persons. Parked up a lot of the time. Neighbors outraged.
5. Everyone goes to court. Court rules deception; the land use is institutional. Chabad appeals. Both sides lawyer up and fund-raise.
6. The Judge, a former client of mine and a nice/reasonable woman, by no means Antisemitic, calls the Rabbi "truculent" in his deliberate deception.

Seems he was/is quite truculent. It all gives Jews a bad name, and makes us all look at offbeat as the Chabad folks. Oy.


"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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1/14/19 10:04 A

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Do you have the Readers Digest version?

LAURIE, NYC

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1/14/19 9:56 A

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This story is hot stuff here locally, and the Chabad rabbi at the heart of the controversy seems intent on giving us all a bad name in a very regrettable and public way. When a Judge calls the Rabbi's demeanor "truculent" , no good can come.

To hear Robin Zoll tell it, the story of the Chabad House next door comes down to one sentence, spoken by Rabbi Menachem “Mendy” Rivkin, which she relayed under oath in court: “I was as honest as I could be to get my permit.”

Rivkin remembers that conversation, too. But in his telling, the emphasis changes. Zoll, he said, accused him of dishonesty. Exasperated, he said he replied, “Robin, I was as honest as I possibly could be.”

One event, two interpretations — such is the story of the tangled legal battle between Zoll and the local neighborhood association on one side, and Hasidic Jewish organization Chabad on the other — over the addition at 14 Aigburth Road in Towson.

Since 2016, the two sides have been, in Circuit Court judge Kathleen Cox’s words, “locked in [a] battle” of appeals. Chabad wants to keep the addition; neighbors want it gone.

Judge pu
ts demolition of Towson Chabad on hold pending appealLate in 2018, as its available appeals seemed to dwindle and the prospect of a tear-down order loomed, Chabad raised the stakes. The organization launched an international social media campaign, soliciting thousands of letters and donations. On Jan. 10, Cox granted Chabad a pause on the tear-down order until another yet appeal is heard in the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s second-highest court. Separately, last month, the group filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Baltimore County and the Circuit Court for their roles in the case.

The parties and onlookers agree: The feud has escalated beyond the typical land-use case — in emotional heat, in financial stakes, and in the sheer finality of a court order to raze a building. How did it get to this point?


In 2008, Jewish organization Friends of Lubavitch, also known as Chabad-Lubavitch, purchased the house on Aigburth Road, according to court documents, to be used as a Chabad House, a Jewish outreach center and home to the rabbi that runs it. Rivkin, now 36, and his wife Sheiny, 32, moved in to serve as shluchim, or emissaries, focusing on Jewish students at Towson University and Goucher College.

“If there was something I wanted to do with my life ... I wanted to be in the trenches,” Mendy Rivkin said. He felt the most important work was waiting for him on a college campus.

Raze Towson Chabad building – or move it backward? A judge will decide
Sociologist Samuel Heilman, a professor at Queens College in New York who studies Orthodox Jewish movements, said the shluchim’s mandate comes from the Chabad movement’s “messianic ideology,” unique among Jewish groups.

“If they can get Jews to do, publicly, acts of Jewish observance, they believe that at a certain point the cosmic balance will be tipped, and when enough Jews have done enough Jewish acts, that will bring the Messiah,” Heilman said.

To further this goal, Chabad shluchim — almost always a rabbi and his wife — move around the world to engage Jews in Jewish life. Since the movement’s founding, one of the most important frontiers has been the college campus, Heilman said.

“College students are from my perception the most vulnerable,” Mendy Rivkin said. “They’re growing up, they’re leaving home, they’re spreading their wings for the first time, and they need to find their own Jewish identities.”

So in 2008, the rabbi and his wife, then in their early and mid-20s, began inviting students at the two institutions to their 2,200-square-foot home.

They chose the Aigburth Manor neighborhood because it was within walking distance of Towson University, Mendy Rivkin said — important because Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath.

They held student Shabbat dinners every Friday, drawing anywhere from five to 60 students. They hosted barbecues, Hanukkah parties and Judaism classes. Sheiny Rivkin taught students to cook traditional Jewish recipes.

Aigburth residents named as liaisons for Chabad of Towson project
“I come here for the family aspect,” said Sydney Marantz, 20, a Towson University sophomore from New Jersey.

Heilman said the fact that Chabad houses are homes is “part of its appeal.”

“[A rabbi is] able to use his family and able to give this feeling that it’s not an institution,” Heilman said, adding, “There’s a warmth about the place.”

“I try to come every Friday night,” said Ilan Pluznik, 19, of Ellicott City, also a Towson University sophomore. “In college, it’s important to learn about who you are. Being Jewish is a part of who I am.”

The building also housed the Rivkins’ growing family. They had one child when they purchased the house; today they have seven.

The Rivkins said the house felt too small for their growing family — both their biological family, and their “family” of students. During Shabbat dinners, they would cram 35 students into a dining room better suited for six.

In 2014, the Rivkins announced a plan to expand the Chabad House and applied for a building permit for a “parsonage,” a house for clergy provided by a religious institution. That permit was denied, and Rivkin instead applied for a permit for a residential addition, which was granted. Construction on the 4,400-square-foot addition in front of the original house began in June 2016 and cost $800,000, according to court documents.


Meanwhile, neighbors, appalled by the massive, seemingly institutional structure taking shape in their neighborhood, launched a multi-pronged legal campaign.

In August, they found a mid-century covenant in Chabad’s deed requiring that the building be set back farther than the plan for the addition. Excavation — but not construction — had already started, according to court filings, and Chabad insisted it was too late to stop.

In the county appeals court, neighbors argued that the building occupants were not complying with zoning use regulations, using the building as a community center rather than a residence. In the Circuit Court, they argued the building violated the setback requirements in the deed.

The judicial system ruled in favor of neighbors in both cases, launching a spiral of appeals. But Chabad seemed to be running out of options to delay the looming order from the Circuit Court to tear down the addition. Then came the federal discrimination lawsuit.

Melting pot or salad bowl?

For Zoll, the Rivkins’ neighbor, the Chabad House case seems clear: The covenant requires buildings on the property to be at least 115 feet from the road. The addition is less than 60 feet away. It is an “institutional” building in a residential zone. Legally, in her view, it should come down.

But when Friends of Towson Chabad, a group of Chabad rabbis, took the case to the public, it assigned a darker cause to the judge’s tear-down order: discrimination.

Towson Chabad files federal lawsuit against Baltimore County, alleging religious discrimination
They named their website TowsonCrisis.com. They raised more than $160,000 and said they received more than 5,000 letters of support — from students, rabbis, and even Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. They likened the opposition to the expansion and the court rulings to Kristallnacht, an event in 1938 Germany in which Nazis torched synagogues and vandalized Jewish homes. Zoll called it a “smear campaign.”

“I am livid about this slander, and this misrepresentation of my reputation and my character,” Zoll said. The implication of anti-Semitism made her feel not only outraged, but terrified for her family's safety. She said she was fine with Chabad for the years before the addition was built; the lawsuit, she said, has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the calm she feels the addition took from her neighborhood.

Rivkin said though Chabad is not accusing neighbors personally of anti-Semitism, the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh and an alleged anti-Semitic assault against a Jewish Towson University student last year reminded the Towson Jewish community that “people want to hurt us for who we are. We forget that.”

Chabad as an organization has a “long history of litigation against them,” Heilman said, adding that some attribute the opposition to anti-Semitism. But Heilman sees more nuance: While many American Jewish communities are assimilated and private, Chabad followers, with their beards and traditional dress and public menorah lightings, practice a blatant, “in-your-face Orthodoxy.”

“What groups like Chabad are challenging is: Is America really a multiethnic, multicultural salad bowl, or still the melting pot where everyone is supposed to blend in?” Heilman said.

Towson University investigating alleged assault as possible anti-Semitic hate crime
Michigan attorney Daniel Dalton specializes in the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA, the law under which Chabad is suing the county and court. The lawyer, who is not involved in the case, sees another problem Chabad houses face: They do not fit neatly into zoning regulations.

The Rivkins have argued for years that their house is just a house, that students are just their guests. Zoll and the neighborhood argue 14 Aigburth is a “community center,” a commercial use.

But Dalton said he sees Chabad houses as religious institutions like churches or synagogues, which are allowed “by right” in Baltimore County residential zones. Chabad insisted throughout litigation that the building was residential.

Typically, Dalton said, courts are “loathe to stop a religious entity from practicing,” and rarely issue tear-down orders. “You have to really annoy the court,” he said.

It appears Mendy Rivkin did so. Judge Susan Souder, who gave the original tear-down order, wrote that his demeanor was “evasive and aggressive.” The Board of Appeals found his demeanor “dismissive towards his neighbors and truculent in general.”

No matter Chabad’s mistakes, its attorney, Nathan Lewin, said the crux of the federal lawsuit against Baltimore County is that it was unreasonably difficult to build the addition, and the court-imposed consequences it now faces are too drastic.

“It’s a setback violation, and now the whole building’s got to be destroyed because of zoning violations.” Lewin said. “That’s exactly what RLUIPA is designed to prevent.”

After 'anti-Semitic assault,' Towson University Jewish fraternity to hold anti-hate rally
Dalton thinks in the federal case Chabad is “out of luck." The law, Dalton said, only guarantees that religious buildings are treated the same as secular ones, not that they are immune to zoning rules. And RLUIPA is typically used to sue the executive branch of government; even Lewin said to his knowledge, it has not yet been used to sue a court.

“There’s not a lot of good facts for them in this case,” Dalton said. “I guess they figured: ‘We’ll ask for forgiveness later, we’ll pay something for this to go away.’”

Zoll said Chabad has offered her a financial settlement. No amount of money could convince her; she wants the addition gone.

But Heilman said if the Rivkins are like most Chabad followers, resolute in the belief that they are doing God’s work, they will not give up.

“They’re not going to disappear,” Heilman said. “They’re not going to go home.”

Edited by: BOSS61 at: 1/14/2019 (09:57)
"Some day we will look back on this, and it will all seem funny" - Bruce Springsteen (The real BOSS, as opposed to me.)





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