Press Release

Storm of support for Boca Chabad hits land! Former mayor, community leaders, and national groups speak up for Florida synagogue

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The former mayor of Boca Raton, prominent local business and religious leaders, the former Florida House Majority Leader, legal scholars, and national and international religious groups are standing up for the Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida, a Jewish community that for ten years has fought to build a synagogue. Despite two court victories in less than a year, the Chabad must continue to battle for its synagogue in Gagliardi v. The City of Boca Raton, Fla.

A small group opposed the synagogue, claiming the city is establishing a religion by allowing the Chabad to build. The group recently appealed its losses to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, prolonging the decade-long battle to prevent the Chabad from building a permanent home. National and international groups and local citizen-leaders filed three friend-of-the-court briefs with the court defending minority rights and supporting the Chabad’s right to build. (watch this video about the Chabad’s experience.)

“It is encouraging to know that so many in our community and our nation support us and want to welcome us with open arms. We are hopeful that soon we will be free to live and worship side by side with our neighbors and friends here in East Boca Raton,” said Rabbi Ruvi New, head of the Chabad of East Boca Raton.

The brief from leading national and international Jewish groups and signed by noted Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz called out the “the virulent and ugly opposition the Chabad has encountered over the past few years” and encouraged the court to fully enforce existing “constitutional and statutory safeguards to ensure minority religious groups are given equal property and land use rights.” Another brief, led by Jews for Religious Liberty and joined by several rabbis, stated that accepting “the Plaintiffs’ argument would turn religious believers into second–class citizens” and would “prevent governmental actors from doing things like providing chaplains or kosher food to Jews in prison or in the military.” And the brief by the former mayor, former House majority leader, a local Episcopal priest, and several other local community leaders said that allowing the Chabad to build its synagogue would “serve as a potent symbol of religious equality” in Boca Raton, where the Chabad has been a “valuable organization . . . for over fifteen years.”

“It’s a shame that a small opposing group has been hiding behind ugly legal claims to stall the synagogue’s right to build,” said Daniel Blomberg, counsel at Becket, which represents the Chabad of East Boca Raton. “The misguided legal attack on the Chabad is ultimately a threat to every religious group. And today, many of those other religious groups started pushing back.”

Becket has represented many religious institutions that have faced illegal opposition, including the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, a mosque in Tennessee, and the Church of Our Savior, an Anglican congregation in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

The diverse amici were represented by leading lawyers and law firms, including Professor Dershowitz, Miles Coleman of Nelson Mullins, Howard N. Slugh, Professor Gregory Dolin of the University of Baltimore, and Michael Lazaroff of Greenberg Traurig. The Chabad is represented by Becket and Kirkland & Ellis.