Court Overrules Zoning Board, Permits Holiday Tent Services

A ruling by a suburban zoning board that would have forbidden a Conservative Jewish congregation from holding High Holiday services in a tent erected for the purpose has been reversed in the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court at Norristown near here. As a result, the Congregation B’nai Israel, of Olney, will hold Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in a large tent in Melrose Park, not far from its permanent Temple.

The congregation applied last April to the Cheltenham Township Zoning Board for permission to use its tent for High Holiday services. The zoning board had granted such a permit last year when it was informed that the entire congregation membership could not be accommodated in the Temple. In granting the permit in 1955, the board ruled that the 1955 permit was not to be construed as a precedent.

When the congregation applied for a permit for this year’s services, the board ruled that the grounds on which the tent was to be erected “were not maintained to the satisfaction of the neighbors,” and held that increased automobile traffic would also violate township regulations. The congregation appealed the ban to Commons Pleas Court. A number of Protestant clergymen and the local Civic Association backed the congregation’s appeal.

In reversing the zoning board’s ruling, the court held that the board had been “unreasonable and arbitrary” and that its ban of the tent services amounted to “flagrant abuse of discretion.”

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