Vandals Spray-Paint Swastika on Car of Congregation Toras Chaim’s Rabbi Rich

March 20, 2015

Vandalism committed nine days after city of Dallas sues First Liberty Institute client Congregation Toras Chaim


Rabbi Yaakov Rich’s car was vandalized with a swastika just daysafter the City of Dallas
filed a lawsuit that could potentially shut down the small Orthodox Jewish congregation.

Last week, on the evening Wednesday, March 11, somebody spray-painted a swastika on the car of Rabbi Yaakov Rich, the leader of Congregation Toras Chaim, a small orthodox Jewish congregation in far north Dallas, Texas. The act of vandalism comes just nine days after the City of Dallas filed a lawsuit that could potentially shut down the small congregation.

Rabbi Yaakov Rich, the leader of Congregation Toras Chaim, said, “I feel completely violated. As a Jew, the swastika is the most offensive symbol that there is. They didn’t just attack me, they attacked every Jew in the City of Dallas. I am very grateful, however, that the members of Congregation Toras Chaim are banding together to ensure that there is no disruption in our activities.” 

“We are horrified to hear of this act of hatred against Rabbi Rich, his family, and Congregation Toras Chaim,” said First Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Justin Butterfield. “Acts of violence against religious beliefs are being perpetrated around the world. But these acts should never be tolerated in America, which was founded on the principle of religious liberty for all. First Liberty Institute is committed to standing by Rabbi Rich, his family, and Congregation Toras Chaim until their religious freedom rights are secured and justice is done.” 


A small community of Orthodox Jewish families, Congregation Toras Chaim meets in a private home in far north Dallas for prayer, worship, and religious study. Because the tenets of the Orthodox Jewish faith instruct members not to drive or ride in a car on the Sabbath or on Jewish holidays, Congregation Toras Chaim members must meet within walking distance of their homes.

Earlier this year, First Liberty Institute successfully defended the right of Congregation Toras Chaim to worship in a private residence after a disgruntled neighbor and the local homeowners association brought a lawsuit attempting to ban the congregation from peacefully meeting to study the tenets of their faith in a private home.

The disgruntled neighbor contended that the congregation’s religious activities violated the neighborhood’s residential-only restrictive covenant. But on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, at a hearing for a motion for summary judgment, Collin County District Court Judge Jill Willis ruled that members of Congregation Toras Chaim have a right to continue meeting for private worship.

Despite this ruling, the congregation now faces another lawsuit:on Monday, March 2, 2015, the City of Dallas, Texas—the nation’s ninth largest city—sued Congregation Toras Chaim. The city is requesting potentially crippling civil penalties of $1,000 per day per violation, enough to shut down the congregation.

The alleged infractions, according to the City’s lawsuit, include the lack of 13 off-street parking spaces and one disabled parking space, even though Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath. In addition, there are further requirements demanded by the City, such as two doorways in the front of the home. 


The swastika painted on Rabbi Rich’s car is not the only instance of hostility and vandalism that Congregation Toras Chaim has faced. “In orthodox Jewish homes, there is a little box on the doorway with a scroll on it with a scripture on it, and in the past, somebody had ripped that off of the doorway.  They’ve also had people drive in front of the home screaming obscenities at them,” Mr. Butterfield said, as quoted in an online article by the Dallas/Fort Worth CBS television affiliate.

Congregation Toras Chaim is just one instance in a growing trend of religious liberty violations of houses of worship. Other First Liberty Institute clients who have suffered religious discrimination include:

  • First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, NY—In July 2014, the City of Auburn sent a cease-and-desist order demanding that the First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, NY stop their outreach to the kids in their community through a Glee Camp on church property.
  • CornerstoneChurch by the Bay—When Cornerstone Church by the Bay acquired property in Bayview, Texas, it requested permission from the town to use its property as a church and school.  But in June 2014, after denying Cornerstone’s request, the Bayview Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to ban churches and schools from the area where Cornerstone’s property sits—despite allowing nonreligious institutions in that exact same area.


First Liberty Institute is dedicated to defending the right of Congregation Toras Chaim and other houses of worship to freely exercise their religious beliefs.

Please pray as we continue our defense of the congregation, and please consider a financial gift today to support our efforts in protecting the religious liberty across America.

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About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit

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