The following editorial appears in The Journal News in response the a recent episode (reported here and here):
Neighbors were shocked when they looked out their window to see boys circling a calf in the backyard of a stately home now used by Yeshiva Bobover. The rest of us were appalled by photos released by Ramapo Police that showed blood-spattered walls in a preschool classroom, and by descriptions of a cow’s head, entrails and bloody knives found in boxes in the room for young children.The yeshiva apologized. But the mea culpa really comes too late and sounds inadequate. “The unfortunate incident that took place on Monday evening on our school property was totally not within parameters of our school charter or mission purpose,” stated the letter signed by Rabbi Gershon Bornfreund, administrator of the yeshiva.
This action, and the yeshiva’s track record in related areas, should not be ignored next week, when Yeshiva Bobover goes before the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals to seek special permission from the town to build a bigger building than would be allowed on its 2-acre plot. The yeshiva has been operating in a home on the property; it is an illegal use that the town has passively allowed.
Relatedly, the yeshiva was fined $2,000 in February by the Rockland Board of Health for operating the school without getting a permit for a public water supply. That fine has not been paid.
On May 14, the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals should not give an inch on Yeshiva Bobover’s continuing dispute with the town over variances to allow the construction of a building on the property to serve 250 students.
In recent years, Ramapo has allowed organizations, often private schools, to continue to operate even if they are out of compliance with codes. Sometimes, this has resulted in good compliance with local codes and general cooperation. Other times, the violations pile up as town regulations are repeatedly ignored. Guess which pattern fits here?
Since its inception, the yeshiva has proved to be a poor neighbor to residents of unincorporated Ramapo, and the bordering villages of Pomona and Wesley Hills. The yeshiva’s administrator, Rabbi Gershon Bornfreund, told staff writer Jane Lerner this week that the school has tried to be a good neighbor. “We want to get along with the community,” he said.
Good neighbors follow zoning, building and health codes. Yeshiva Bobover has not. Good neighbors use their property in a way that fits the neighborhood and are aware of activities on their land. Yeshiva Bobover’s administrator claims school officials didn’t know about the cow slaughtering, although a member of the yeshiva’s board of directors told police he had granted permission for the slaughtering lesson.
Against that backdrop, Yeshiva Bobover deserves no further flexibility from Ramapo officials.
A Journal News editorial