Councillor says religious facility may violate bylaws
Residents claim place of worship in private home causing parking woes
Co-founder Ed Schild said the synagogue is not breaking Vaughan bylaws
Following neighbours’ complaints, a City of Vaughan councillor said a residential religious facility may violate city bylaws concerning places of worship being run from private homes. Ward 5 councillor Alan Shefman wrote in an e-mail that the complaints about Ateres Mordechai, an Orthodox Jewish facility used mostly for learning the Torah and hosting religious gatherings, do not stem from its membership’s desire to worship in a residential home.
“That is not [the city’s] business,” he wrote. “But rather when there are attempts to establish a synagogue in a home. We believe that a religious institution cannot meet the zoning requirements, therefore leading to conflicts with the residents in the area.”
“Family and friends say they have never seen anything like it.”
According to a city bylaw, Vaughan allows houses of worship within private homes as long as there is enough parking to handle congregants. However, neighbours alleged that members packed Arnold Avenue with parked cars and blocked residential driveways at one point, Shefman wrote. The synagogue responded by trying to ensure its attendees — rarely exceeding more than 20 people — park legally, but the councillor does not think the property can support them.
A co-founder of the synagogue, Ed Schild, said he feels there is ample parking and any street parking is done legally. He said some “disgruntled” neighbours are taking a “not in my backyard” stance against the synagogue’s Rabbi Avrohom Bitterman, who could not be reached for comment. Schild said there would be a hole in the community if the synagogue were forced out of the neighbourhood.
“What makes Ateres Mordechai very special is their sincerity toward praying and studying,” Schild said, adding that members are respectful of their neighbours. “I have had family and friends from out of town say they have never seen anything like it.”
With a laugh, Schild said that, since the complaints started, Ateres Mordechai has received record support from Jews and non-Jews alike.