Religious group fights for neighborhood inclusion

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Since 1995, the Orthodox Jewish congregation Midrash Sephardi has leased the second floor of a downtown commercial building. Another Jewish congregation, Young Israel, began sharing the same facilities in 2000. Both groups adhere to strict observance of Orthodox Judaism. However, the city initiated two court actions to enjoin the use of the facilities because the city zoning ordinance does not permit churches and synagogues within its business district. Religious uses are permitted only in the city's area zoned for residences, a considerable distance away. Purchase Bob Bruss reports online. Officials argued the city is dependent on its business district to produce tax revenue for city operations. They emphasized churches and synagogues do not produce such taxes, nor do they encourage retail business "synergy." Representatives of the synagogues replied their members often visit nearby commercial stores before and after meetings, but the city zoning ordinance is unconstitutional beca...