In a historic step, the Jackson Township Council has agreed tonight to adopt a set of ordinances making it significantly easier for the Orthodox Jewish community to establish schools, dormitories, eruvim and Mikvaos in the municipality.
The ordinances approved tonight by a unanimous vote, are the culmination of seven years of litigation between Agudath Israel of America and the Jackson Township Council, and repeal the offending ordinances.
In 2017, Agudath Israel filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey District Court against the Council, claiming the Council had deliberately passed zoning regulations making it impossible for Orthodox Jews to build schools and dormitories, houses of worship, eruvs, and mikvas in violation of the RLUIPA law, a federal law that prohibits local zoning boards from imposing or implementing overly restrictive zoning and other land use regulations that significantly affect the free religious exercise of a person, assembly, or institution.
The Agudah lawsuit was in addition to a similar lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in 2020 which accused the Township and Planning Board of violating the RLUIPA law, as well as the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Last year, Jackson Township agreed to resolve the United States’ claims against the Township and Planning Board by entering into a Consent Order which requires that the Township repeal the 2017 Ordinance and replace it with an ordinance permitting schools, and associated housing, such as dormitories, in certain zoning districts.
Interestingly, none of the current council members were members when the litigation first began.