An Orthodox congregation narrowly won a zoning battle in Plantation, Fla., when the city council voted on June 12 to allow Tiferet Raphael, an Orthodox synagogue, to hold services in a shopping plaza.
Supporters of Tiferet Raphael faced opposition from a contingent of shopkeepers from Central Park Place Shopping Center. Religious worship is usually not permitted in a commercial zone, and the shopkeepers claimed that the proposed synagogue could decrease the financial viability of their businesses.
Nick Perris, owner of Central Park Postal Center, a store in the shopping center, spearheaded the efforts to prevent the congregation from moving in. In an interview with The Forward, Perris emphasized that his position was motivated entirely by economics.
“Another business should have taken over that place,” he said. The space that will soon be occupied by Tiferet Raphael — a freestanding building in the plaza — was previously used by an accounting office.
According to the synagogue’s attorney, Justin Schmidt of the firm Glantz & Glantz, congregation members sought a zone variance because they needed a house of worship within reasonable walking distance of their homes.
Charles Ittah, president of Tiferet Raphael, told The Miami Herald last week that his congregation’s goal “wasn’t to create any conflict with our neighbors… we just wanted to worship where we wanted.”
Bruce Edwards, a city councilmember who strongly supported the congregation’s efforts, concurred. The synagogue’s supporters, Edwards told the Forward, “did everything possible to demonstrate they wanted to be a good neighbor.”
While approving Tiferet Raphael’s zoning variance by a vote of 3-2, the city council established a set of guidelines by which the congregation must abide: The congregation can have no more than 30 member families — currently, 15 families belong — and all members must affix parking decals on their vehicles.
Another synagogue, Chabad of Plantation, has been operating in the shopping center since 1993, but is currently seeking to relocate.