Chabad Rabbi Found Guilty Of Zoning Violation


FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Seven members of the township Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously decided Thursday that a local rabbi is, in fact, running a house of worship out of his home.

“If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck,” zoning board member William Nero said before the board voted. “And without question, this is a duck.”

Nero was referring to 351 Stillwells Corner Road, the home of Rabbi Avraham Bernstein.

Bernstein’s neighbors have long complained that Bernstein is running religious services out of his home, which is located across the street from the township Municipal Complex.

The township does permit houses of worship in residential areas, but requires a use variance for their operation. Bernstein — a member of the Jewish organization Chabad Lubavitch — does not have a use variance to run services out of his home.

After years of mounting frustration among his neighbors, one — Paul Sweda, who lives next to Bernstein — asked the zoning board to determine whether Bernstein is operating a house of worship in violation of the township’s zoning ordinances.

The board began hearing the case in January. During the hearing process, the board heard from several witnesses who described watching people visit Bernstein’s home on Fridays and Saturdays, and observing what they believed to be religious celebrations at the house.

Based on that testimony and their own observations, board members said they felt assured that Bernstein’s home met the definition of a house of worship.

To be a house of worship, a property must be used for traditional services, meetings or gatherings of an organized religious body or community, which are presided over by an ordained or “otherwise officially recognized” leader of the body or community.

About Luke Ford

Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist at Avondale College in Australia, Luke Ford moved to California in 1977. He graduated from Placer High School in 1984, reported the news at KAHI/KHYL radio for three years, attended Sierra College and UCLA, was largely bedridden by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years, and converted to Judaism in 1993. From 1997-2007, Luke made his living from blogging. Living by Beverly Hills (, he now teaches the Alexander Technique (moving the way the body likes to move). Lessons cost $100 each and last about 45 minutes. In 2011, Luke completed a three-year teaching course at the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles. His personal Alexander Technique website is Luke is the author of five books, including: » The Producers: Profiles in Frustration » Yesterday’s News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism
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