Hawaii Rabbi Harassed for Hosting Religious Gatherings at Home

February 16, 2024
Hawaii Rabbi Harassed for Hosting Religious Gatherings | First Liberty Insider

by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

Rabbi Levi Gerlitzky lives on the Big Island of Hawaii. He’s facing more than $40,000 in zoning fines. County officials are penalizing him for hosting religious gatherings at home.

Members of the Orthodox Jewish faith don’t drive on the Sabbath. So, they have to be within walking distance of where they gather for worship.

Rabbi Gerlitzky opened his home to meet that need. He hosts people for meals, occasional prayer meetings and other Sabbath celebrations. It’s usually no more than 15 or maybe 20 people at a time.

But the county seems to think that’s a big problem. They keep fining the Rabbi and ordering him to stop his gatherings.

What’s happening to Rabbi Gerlitzky is clear discrimination. It’s illegal to treat him differently simply because his gatherings are religious.

Other homes host social get togethers, such as Super Bowl parties and book clubs. And those happen regularly without penalty. Groups meeting for religious purposes, however, are only allowed when a use permit is submitted and approved by the county.

Hold on a second. A Rabbi has to ask for permission to hold a religious gathering in his home? In America? And meanwhile, other groups are allowed to meet freely and without interference?

That’s just wrong. It goes against everything that religious freedom is all about. In America, religious groups should be treated the same as everyone else.

This week, First Liberty sued the county. We argue that the restrictions violate the U.S. Constitution and federal law. We’re working with a top group of volunteer attorneys at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Anti-Semitism is growing here at home and around the world. It’s harder than ever for Jewish people to live out their faith freely.

So, shouldn’t officials support this gathering by protecting their most basic freedom as Americans? Simply put, getting punished for holding an at-home prayer gathering is the last thing a Rabbi should be going through right now.

Rabbi Gerlitzky is counting on us…and YOU…to win his case.

It’s really important that we win cases like this. It impacts the lives of our clients, who are everyday heroes standing up for their faith.

But it also has a ripple effect in the lives of other people—like the friends, family and neighbors who gather at Rabbi Gertlizky’s home.

Please support Rabbi Gerlitzky. A win for him would be win for all Americans. Give to First Liberty today.

P.S.: Did you know that you’ve already helped restore religious liberty for many other Jewish Americans?

You helped First Liberty get a win for Rabbi Levi Illulian in Beverly Hills, California. He was also being threatened for hosting religious gatherings in his home. We won his case back in December, just in time for Hannukah.

Thanks to you, the Jewish community in Airmont, New York also got a major win. We recently reached a favorable agreement for several rabbis and their Orthodox Jewish congregations—who will now be able to worship freely in their homes. This ended over 30 years of religious discrimination in that village!

Thank you for being part of this important battle for our First Freedom. Your donations make a huge difference. Because of you, we’re winning cases from the Empire State to the Golden Coast. And that means people of faith across the country get to live out their faith and do what they do best.

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