JACKSON — He moved from Chicago to be closer to his daughter and her family. But he said he cannot practice his religion in the township home he purchased in a 55+ adult community.
Philip Lefkowitz, a retired Orthodox Jewish rabbi who relocated to Jackson in July 2016, moved to his Crooked Stick Road home in the Westlake Golf and Country Club with his two sons, Levi and Moshe. All three suffer from diabetes and have lost parts of their legs from the progression of the disease. All three use wheelchairs to get around.
Lefkowitz is suing Westlake Master Association Inc. and each Board of Trustees member individually for religious and disability discrimination. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The men are represented by Gregory J. Bevelock and
Charles M. Fisher of Bevelock & Fisher LLC in Madison, New Jersey.
For two years, Lefkowitz has asked to be allowed to build a sukkah–a temporary hut constructed to use during the week-long Jewish celebration of Sukkot, a festival giving thanks for the autumn harvest, as commanded in Leviticus 23:39-43–larger than what the community’s bylaws allow to allow better access to it because of their wheelchairs.
He has also asked that a locked gate by his property be opened to accommodate his disability, to allow him and sons to attend religious services. The only other way would require them to go 1.3 miles into vehicle traffic lanes on Gale Chambers Road, where his daughter lives and the religious services are held.
That distance is 0.3 miles if allowed to use the gate.
Lefkowitz contends his rights under the Fair Housing Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination have been violated. The lawsuit, filed Oct. 11, seeks to force Westlake to approved a screened porch/sukkah on his home, construct a path between the sidewalk on Crooked Stick Road and the gate that opens onto Gale Chambers Road and equip the gate with a Sabbath-accessible lock satisfactory to the Lefkowitzes. He’s also asking for compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.
Jersey Shore Online received a copy of the lawsuit after Westlake office hours and was unable to reach anyone for comment.