Jackson May Be Sued For Checking On Prayer Services

Photo by Jennifer Peacock

JACKSON – A new lawsuit has allegedly been filed stating a “stake out” was authorized by the council’s current vice president, Rob Nixon, but such litigation has not yet been formally received by the governing body.

News of the lawsuit was reported by other media outlets stating it was initiated by Isaac Tawil of Pitney Lane. The suit accuses Nixon of having township code enforcement officers monitor Sabbath prayer services at Tawil’s home.

Tawil has called this an action of harassment which prevented him from his right to pray at his home. The hour-long services are held on Friday evenings. Saturday morning services are held for about two hours and Saturday evening services average about 20 minutes.

“As of today (Feb. 9) Jackson has not been formally served the lawsuit and as you know I am unable to comment on pending litigation,” Nixon said in an e-mail to The Jackson Times on Feb. 9.

Nixon served as council president in June 2016 when he allegedly e-mailed code compliance supervisor Ken Pieslak instructing him to observe Tawil’s home. The e-mail noted that 14 vehicles were parked in the driveway of Tawil’s residence.

According to township emails released by a township watchdog site, Nixon wrote “I’d appreciate if we could keep on top of this to ensure everything going on is compliant with our code.”

During a Jan. 23 Jackson Council meeting resident John Maneri asked for an update concerning any investigations related to texts and e-mails by Jackson officials.

Township Attorney Jean Cipriani acknowledged that several lawsuits have been filed against the township in the last 24 months and that they involved the community’s growing Orthodox Jewish population. She was not able to provide any further update on any state or federal investigation.

Last September, the governing body voted to amend an ordinance which effectively blocked the placement of an eruv, which would allow Orthodox Jews, who during the Sabbath are not permitted to work under religious law, to do basic things around the property. The traditional interpretations of Jewish law also forbid moving an object from one domain to another, no matter its weight or purpose.

Close to 300 Orthodox Jewish residents attended a Sept. 12 council meeting to object to the modification of that ordinance which was approved that evening. Opponents of that action noted that the ordinance was filed shortly after the Jackson Eruv Association presented a plan to erect the eruv.

An “interim settlement” approved on Dec. 13 between the township, Agudath Israel of America and WR Property, LLC. placed the lawsuit in stasis and called for all sides to mediate their differences.

The lawsuit had been added as an amendment to an existing lawsuit regarding a measure preventing the building of a dormitory school in Jackson. The township’s Zoning Board denied a proposed all girls Oros Bais Yaakov High School, in 2014. The builder of that project was to be WR Property, LLC. WR Properties owns acreage on White Road in Jackson and under current township law, cannot build a school on that property.