The private, religious high school operating in what was once Temple Beth Or on Hendrickson Avenue has been ordered by a judge to close its doors temporarily and undergo an inspection later this week. At that point, they may be able to reopen – also on a temporary basis.
The school, operated by Congregation Kehilos Yisroel (CKY), which is ultimately controlled by developer David Gluck, has been operating since last month. After CKY purchased the building in the spring, the township issued a zoning permit allowing the former temple facility to continue operating as it was since its construction in 1976 – a place of worship. But months after the summer, school buses began transporting students to the facility on a daily basis and at least one nearby home is allegedly being used as a dormitory space.
The township, on Aug. 20, filed suit to force CKY to obtain proper zoning permits and submit to required inspections in order to operate a school. Superior Court Judge Craig L. Wellerson handed down an initial ruling in the case Monday, after CKY’s attorney, Adam Pfeffer, asked for the case to be removed to the Chancery Division and extra time to be granted to the defendant since Jewish holidays are upcoming. CKY is an ultra-Orthodox congregation based in Lakewood; the former Temple Beth Or, which still exists without the 4.11-acre building, operated as a mainstream Conservative Jewish congregation. The two are not affiliated.
Wellerson on Monday ordered the school to be closed “until the safety issues are addressed,” said Brick Township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin. “He further ordered the township to complete a follow-up inspection on Wednesday and requested a status report be submitted to the court by 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15.” The school may reopen after that inspection if a number of hazards identified by the township, such as a lack of smoke detectors and the presence of residential ovens, are resolved. But if the school were to reopen, its leaders will not yet be cleared to operate on a permanent basis.
Most significantly, CKY has been required to file a site plan application with the township by Oct. 15, 2021.
Wellerson ruled on the matter of a change in venue to remove the case from the Civil Division to the Chancery Division, denying CKY’s request for reassignment.
Officials say they have observed the school intensifying its use of the property in recent weeks, with over 100 students attending classes there. After CKY purchased the property, according to documents obtained from the township, permits were issued for work to rehabilitate the existing house of worship. but made no mention of a school use.