Dallas man suing rabbi neighbor who uses house as synagogue - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Dallas man suing rabbi neighbor who uses house as synagogue

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A homeowner is suing his neighbor, a rabbi, claiming the rabbi is violating the homeowner's association rules and lowering property values.

The rabbi says his 3,700 square foot home in a far North Dallas neighborhood near Frankford and Hillcrest roads is a synagogue.

"It's about having a place to pray and to study for a small group of people within the neighborhood," said Rabbi Yaakov Rich.

The synagogue is home to about 25 members.

David Schneider, who lives in the home across the street from the synagogue, says in the suit that he "seeks from defendants $50,000 in compensatory damages due to decline in the value of Schneider's home, as caused by defendants."

Rich says there are services at the house every day, twice a day – one in the morning and one in the evening.

"We just want to have our religious freedom to be able to pray and to study in this house," said Rich.  

On Saturday, the Sabbath Day, his members walk to the home. Rich says they've tried not to park in front of driveways, and he encourages members to walk instead.

As far as the claim that the synagogue is lowering property values, Rich said, "Wherever there is an orthodox synagogue around the country, since we have to walk, we can't drive on the Sabbath or on the Jewish holidays. So the price of the homes near that synagogue always go up in value, not down."

The Liberty Institute has stepped in to defend the synagogue.

Attorney Justin Butterfield says there are tens of thousands of homes across the country that have Bible studies and religious gatherings, and they're protected by federal law.

"The Religious Land Use and institutionalized Persons Act, that protects religious land use," said Butterfield. "And that can be anything from a church to a person having a Bible study in their home."

Dawn Coates lives a few doors down from where the synagogue meets. Coates' complaint is traffic through the week, and that the appearance of the house is turning into a temple.

She and some of her other neighbors have signs in their yards reading, "Keep us residential only."

"The City of Dallas said they have filed for a certificate as a congregation, so it's not just a home," said Coates.  

She's right --  Rich says the city has asked him to file for that so he can adhere to codes like having fire extinguishers in the home and make changes, if need be, to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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