BNOS BROCHA IS A GIRLS SCHOOL, BAR MITZVAH'S ARE ONLY FOR BOYS, ATTORNEY TELLS JUDGE.

The court hearing to decide whether or not Bnos Brocha can continue to operate its simcha hall is getting closer, as it is scheduled for this Friday morning, and the hot topics are who Bar Mitzvah's are for and who is the "immediate religious community" and "members of the community school".


As first reported here on FAA News, Clayton Associates, which operates at 1650 Oak Street, has filed a lawsuit seeking court approval to shut down Bnos Brocha's simcha hall on the basis that the school never received Township Zoning Board approval for the use of a banquet hall which is not a permitted use under the Township's zoning ordinances.


Bnos Brocha is located at 1665 Corporate Road West, in back of Clayton's property.


At the first hearing on the matter held before Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford back on March 8, 2021, Judge Ford signed the following Order:


1. The Plaintiff's Order to Show Cause, with regard to Bnos Brocha, is granted wherein restraints are ordered to prohibit Bnos Brocha from conducting operations other than what are expressly permitted in their Use Variance resolution...


2. Bnos Brocha is restrained if Simcha Hall is used for business purpose, for example, as a catering hall, for non-school purposes unless [it's] an approved use... or otherwise permitted under Lakewood ordinances.


In essence, Judge Ford granted injunction restraints against Bnos Brocha from using the Simcha Hall for any business, non-school purposes, pending the outcome of the lawsuit.


At a subsequent hearing on the matter on February 17, 2022, Attorney Howard Lipstein representing Bnos Brocha asserted that the simcha hall is not "for business purposes", but rather, "Bnos Brocha is a community school for the Religious Jewish community, and the banquet hall is used strictly for religious events by members of the community school".


At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Ford signed an Order permitting continued usage of the simcha hall, "only for school purposes by defendant Bnos Brocha and/or any successors, vendors, for purposes associated with the school and not for business or commercial use."


So, according to Bnos Brocha, all events that have been held at the simcha hall since February were "for school purposes, and not for business or commercial use."


Until June 22nd that is, now claims the Plaintiff.


Clayton obtained a copy of Bnos Brocha's school calendar which indicates that their last day of school was June 22nd. Clayton's investigative team observed the simcha hall being used on 16 days since the school year ended.


Clayton has also obtained a copy of the simcha hall use agreement which indicates that for a fee, the school does rent out the hall - in contrast to the representation by their attorney at the February 17, 2022 hearing.


In response, on August 24th, Attorney Rob Shea representing Clayton, filed a Motion to Enforce Litigant's Rights seeking to immediately cease all activity in the simcha hall "until such time as it receives all requisite and unappealable approvals for same", as well for monetary sanctions as a punishment of violating the court order, and to recover their legal fees associated with filing the motion.


As previously reported here on FAA News, Attorney Howard Lipstein representing Bnos Brocha has filed Opposition to the motion.


Bnos Brocha did not deny that they never received express approval from the Township for their simcha hall, nor did they deny that their simcha hall is used for non-school events, however, they assert that "the use of the simcha hall is a valid accessory use to the school’s operation... as part and parcel of the school’s operation and as an accessory use thereto, Bnos Brocha permits the school’s cafeteria - known as [the] Simcha Hall - to be used by members of the school community for celebrations of bar and bat mitzvah’s and other religious related events."


Bnos Brocha further asserts that the simcha hall is "not for commercial purposes" and they "do not use any formal contracts, [only] a Hall Use Agreement which is principally a set of rules and regulations", rather, the school "permits the school’s cafeteria to be used by members of the community for celebrations of bar and bat mitzvah’s and other religious related events" and that these events are "solely an accomodation to provide for the needs of the school community to hold religious events".


Attorney Shea has now submitted a Reply Brief in response to Bnos Brocha's Opposition.


Mr. Shea notes that the March 8, 2021 order clearly states that Bnos Brocha is restrained from "conducting operations other than what are expressly permitted in their Use Variance resolution", that Bnos Brocha is restrained "if Simcha Hall is used for business purpose, for example, as a catering hall, for non-school purposes unless [it's] an approved use... or otherwise permitted under Lakewood ordinances."


Mr. Shea asserts that Bnos Brocha does not claim to have received Township approval for the simcha hall, but rather that it is permitted as "an accessory use to the school", however, they held 16 events after the school year ended so those events could not have "accessory to the school use".


Mr. Shea further asserts that while Bnos Brocha's attorney claims in his Opposition that the simcha hall is "not a business", R' Shraga Zeldes in his deposition did admit that the simcha hall is "open to the public".


Mr. Shea then delves into the school's explanation that "they permit the Simcha Hall to be used by members of the school community for celebrations of bar and bat mitzvah’s and other religious related events." Mr. Shea notes that Bnos Brocha is only a girls school so therefore, the "members of the school community" only include girls, and therefore, "the hosting of a Bar Mitzvah which is held when a boy turns 13, is clearly beyond the scope of any approval".


In their Opposition, Bnos Brocha asserted that "[the] simcha hall does not advertise nor does it seek business from the public, and its only function is to the immediate religious community".


Mr. Shea produced evidence from the annual publication of the Lakewood Directory that indeed, Bnos Brocha does advertise its simcha hall. He also asserts that all that not withstanding, Bnos Brocha does not assert that it does not receive any business from the public.


Mr. Shea also took issue with the language of "immediate religious community", and "members of the school community" arguing that the school has no approval at all to host events for non-students, and their claim that they are "an accomodation to the community" is without merit.


In response to the evidence of the Hall Use Agreement, Bnos Brocha claimed that they really are not a business as the agreement is not a formal contract, it's "principally a set of rules and regulations, mainly related to adherence of the COVID guidelines".


Mr. Shea further noted that the Hall Use Agreement includes a clause of bringing any unresolved disagreements to "a mutually agreeable Rav" for arbitration. "If Bnos is using the hall as directed by the court, only for school purposes, then what need would they have for an arbitration clause?... The fact of the matter is that Bnos is using the hall for non-school, business purposes...", Mr. Shea asserts.


Finally, Mr. Shea notes that the court orders only permitted Bnos Brocha to use the simcha hall "for school purposes only", therefore, the claim that they do not earn a profit from simchos is irrelevant as the court orders prohibit any use of the hall which is not "for school purposes only".


The Township has not yet submitted any Opposition to Clayton's motion. The court hearing is set for this Friday morning.


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3 comments:

  1. Bnos Brocha also hosts Sheva Brachos, engagement parties. Parlor meetings, seforim sales, etc..

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  2. Are those events also held "by the Defendant Bnos Brocha" and "for non-business, school purposes", or are they "religious events" held by "members of the school community"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course not. Those other events have nothing to do with the school. Members of the public "community" hold them after they've rented the Hall for whatever purpose they wish.

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