A student Jewish outreach organization in Towson has launched an online fundraising effort accompanied by a video, alleging a legal ruling ordering its building to be torn down is “discriminatory” – something the plaintiffs in the case deny.
Hasidic Jewish organization, Friends of Lubavitch, which runs the Jewish outreach program, Chabad, serving Towson-area college students, built the building addition in 2014 and has been locked in a legal battle with the community over zoning and land covenants ever since.
After a 2017 Circuit Court ruling to tear the structure down and a series of appeal decisions affirming that ruling, Chabad is taking the case public with a crowdfunding page on the website Charidy. A Change.org petition also has more than 7,000 signatures as of Nov. 27.
“Eighty years after Kristallnacht, [a night in November 1938 during which German Nazis torched synagogues and vandalized Jewish homes, killing 100] a Rabbi’s home and a home for thousands of Jewish students is slated for destruction,” the organization said in a document attached to the fundraising page. “For a clearly discriminatory ruling like this to be administered in the 21st century is chilling.”
But Paul Hartman, a plaintiff in the case as part of the neighborhood umbrella group Towson Communities Alliance, denied the allegation that the case has anything to do with religion.
“Something I told folks when we first started meeting: ‘Imagine, whatever faith you are, imagine if it were your faith involved in this. What would your opinion be?’” Hartman said. “As far as I’m concerned, I would have the same opinion.”
The case, Hartman said, is about the use of the land in Aigburth Manor, a quiet residential neighborhood adjacent Towson University. Chabad purchased a small house on the street in 2008 according to property records, and Rabbi Menachem Rivkin and his wife Sheiny Rivkin moved in.