Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bikur Cholim house under attack!

Have any comments? Email the writer of the article: Mike Dawson, mdawson@th-record.com If the Catholic Chuch had a guest house there, would anyone be making a fuss? Record: "This is what I'm talking about," said Cathy Mills as she stood in her driveway across from Good Samaritan Hospital watching a young Hasidic man wearing a black suit and stovepipe hat walk briskly from the hospital into the house next door."This will go on all day and tomorrow. Complete strangers coming and going, coming and going," Mills said Friday.The stranger was Isaac Guttman from Kiryas Joel. He was nervous and hungry, but mostly nervous. His wife was at Good Samaritan Hospital.......On Friday and Saturday, Guttman had - at no charge - free reign of the house, which is owned and operated by Bikur Cholim ("visiting the sick"). The Monsey-based nonprofit group offers Orthodox Jews who are visiting family members at Good Samaritan a place to eat and sleep (and pace) during the Sabbath, which lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Orthodox Jews are forbidden to drive during the Sabbath.But Mills and her neighbors, along with village officials, call the yellow two-story house at 5 Hillcrest Road an illegal transient motel and say it should be shuttered. In response, Bikur Cholim has filed a federal lawsuit, claiming its religious rights are being violated.The village denied a zoning variance for the home in November on the grounds that it was located on a residential block. Village Attorney Terry Rice said nowhere in the village is there zoning that would allow the Bikur Cholim house.Bikur Cholim, which operates similar homes........without any complaints or interference from the village.Only when the group bought the home on Hillcrest in April did the village step in, citing the house for code violations and for illegal use."This is a religious institution that is used on the Sabbath and on about 10 holy days per year," said Rabbi Simon Lauber, CEO of Bikur Cholim.Dr. Michael Lippe, director of emergency services at Good Samaritan, told the village Zoning Board that without a place to stay on the Sabbath, he feared Orthodox Jews might forgo coming to the hospital if it means breaking Sabbath laws.But Mills and her husband say they bought their home in 2004 under the premise that the corner lot, where Bikur Cholim sits, would stay residential."This is not about the group," Mills said. "This is about the land use. We want neighbors, not different strangers every week.......
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