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Is Synagogue a Church? is Legal Question in State of New Jersey

September 7, 1926
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

(Jewish Daily Bulletin)

Is a synagogue a church?

A Chinese says it is not and a Jew claims it is. Vice Chancellor Bentley will have to decide the question.

The question involves a five-foot strip of land between the home of Wong Gong in Union City, and the synagogue of the Congregation Beth Jacob. Both Gong and the congregation claim the land.

In 1905 Mrs. Margaret A. Snediker deeded it to the First Presbyterian Church of West Hoboken, which then occupied the site of the present synagogue. The donor provided, however, that unless the strip were always used for “church purpose,” ownership of it should revert to her.

Two years later the Presbyterian church sold its entire property to Congregation Beth Jacob, which has used it ever since. In 1912, Gong bought a quit-claim deed to the strip from Mrs. Snediker’s sole heir, heir only daughter. He used it as a drive-way until several months ago, when the synagogue authorities ordered him to cease. Gong sought an injunction to prevent interference with his using it.

David Newton, counsel for Gong, argued that a synagogue was not a church, declaring that a church was a place of “Christian worship.” Thus, he contended, the strip was not being utilized for “church purposes” and therefore reverted to the donor’s heir, from whom the Chinese had purchased it.

Julius Lichtenstein, representing the congregation, asserted that a synagogue is a church, defining the latter term as a place for “religious worship.” He said the word synagogue was not derived from the Hebrew language and is alien to Jewish phraseology.

Jewish policemen and firemen of Newark, N. J. will be excused from active duty on the High Holidays, according to an order of Director of Public Safety Brennan of that city.

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