Zoning Boards, Synagogues, and Bias
Religious Tolerance in the Suburbs
During the last few years in widely separated parts of the country, many congregations have been denied building or use permits for the construction of houses of worship or for the occupancy of already existing structures on the ground that such construction or occupancy would violate local zoning ordinances. As one heard of such incidents in Long Island, Wilmington (Delaware), Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and St. Louis, one’s first thought, one’s first suspicion, might well have been that these were cases of discrimination, that the concept of “restricted” residential districts was being extended to include synagogues and temples. For it was hard to believe that a congregation would go to the trouble of selecting a site, preparing plans, and raising funds before it had made absolutely certain that it could satisfy the requirements of the zoning ordinances. The suspicion of anti-Semitism was nourished by the further circumstance that all the congregations encountering difficulties were located in the suburbs—they were newcomers from the large cities, where they had been relatively immune to the gross forms of discrimination practiced against Jews as a group.
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