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City of Miami Beach agrees to pay $1.3 million to settle Jewish congregation’s discrimination claims



(JTA) — The city of Miami Beach has agreed to pay $1.3 million to a small Orthodox synagogue that accused it of discrimination by sending inspectors more than once a week on average for two years

At the same time, Congregation Bais Yeshaya D’Kerestir agreed to make changes to its parking and noise practices.

The agreement brings to a close an extended dispute over whether the congregation, which meets in a single-family home owned by its rabbi, Arie Wohl, was a religious institution or a private gathering.

The congregation argued that because its services are invitation-only, the building’s use is similar to that of any other private home and so should not be subject to scrutiny by city inspectors. It sued in April 2022, claiming that city officials had visited more than 126 times over the course of two years to enforce various city laws, including 60 times to enforce pandemic restrictions on large gatherings. (Orthodox services require a minyan, or quorum of at least 10 men, in order to recite certain prayers.)

The congregation also claimed that the city installed a video camera in 2021 that surveilled only its property, not neighboring buildings. Miami Beach was “wrongfully discriminating against Plaintiffs’ First Amendment protected rights of religious exercise and assembly through discriminatory and arbitrary enforcement of the City’s zoning ordinances,” the congregation alleged in a court complaint.

The city issued repeated code violations because it said a religious institution was operating in a residential building. The congregation is “not engaging in private prayer, but, rather, the entity is operating a religious institution in violation of the City’s zoning laws,” the city said in a court filing.

The city said neighbors of the congregation filed multiple complaints against the property related to building code issues. And it said that inspections of the property to ensure compliance with pandemic restrictions were conducted remotely by driving by, not visiting.

“We respectfully disagree with the premise that the city discriminates against any person or religion, simply because the city enforces the city code,” City Attorney Rafael Paz told Axios in January.

But ultimately, to avoid a longer fight in court, the city agreed to settle, agreeing to pay the congregation $1.3 million — $100,000 more than the buyer on behalf of the congregation paid in 2020.

The home is located just blocks from one of Miami Beach’s multiple waterways and within walking distance of multiple other synagogues and Jewish institutions and businesses. About 20,000 Jews live in Miami Beach, down from 34,000 in 1994, according to a study from the University of Miami, and roughly 18% of the city’s current population is Jewish.

Under the terms of the settlement, according to the Miami Herald, the synagogue must improve the condition of its driveway, will not use outdoor speakers for prayer activities, and will also limit the number of cars parked in the area outside the property. The city and the congregation have also agreed to a new process to address future code violations, and the congregation has agreed to not apply for a religious tax exemption at the property.

“Even if we had gone to trial and won, it wouldn’t have felt like we had won anything,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told The Miami Herald. “Ultimately, we do support the celebration of faith in our community.”

Congregation Bais Yeshaya D’Kerestir is far from the only synagogue to get entangled in local zoning issues. University Heights, Ohio, recently fought a court battle over compliance with a congregation called the Alexander Shul, which was settled in December with the synagogue paying $1.59 million. As part of that agreement, the city and the synagogue will construct a new synagogue that meets the state building code.

The post City of Miami Beach agrees to pay $1.3 million to settle Jewish congregation’s discrimination claims appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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