jewish worship supplies on table
When does a house turn into a house of worship?

A rabbi in Hawaii is suing his county after getting fined tens of thousands of dollars for hosting religious gatherings at his home.

The county says Rabbi Levi Gerlitzky failed to acquire the proper permits for such gatherings. Now Gerlitzky is fighting back, arguing that requiring permits for private religious gatherings is unconstitutional.

The rabbi is alleging religious persecution and a violation of first amendment rights.

Separation of Church and Estate

Back in March of 2022, the Hawaii County Planning Office told Gerlitzky the meetings he was holding at the Chabad Jewish Center on Hawaii's big island lacked the proper permits.

The Chabad Jewish Center of the Big Island is Rabbi Gerlitzky’s home.

chabad jewish center of the big island
Chabad Jewish Center of the Big Island, per Google Maps.

The home is located in an area zoned only for single-family residential use, and “churches, temples and synagogues” require a use permit.

The Hawaii County Planning Office said he was "operating an unpermitted 'Church, Temple, or Synagogue' on [the property]" and demanded he cease and desist, levying a $1,000 fine, and a warning that failure to pay the fine within a month could result in an additional fine of $100 per day.

So far, the rabbi has racked up over $40,000 in fines:

Gerlitzky applied for the proper permit, but it was denied, as the county requires numerous upgrades to his home to meet standards, including upgrades to the wastewater system, compliance with fire codes, and upgrades to the home to make it in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Gerlitzky refused the required legal improvements, explaining, "we just want to have our people over for meals and prayers."

See You in Court

In the face of continuing fines, Gerlitzky claims he’s facing religious persecution – and he’s taking the fight to the courts.

“By fining the Center while allowing comparable secular gatherings to occur in the same area,” the lawsuit reads, “the County’s actions substantially burden the Center and Rabbi Gerlitzky’s religious free exercise in practice in a way that is not neutral or generally applicable.”

First Liberty Institute, representing Gerlitzky, argues this amounts to discrimination against the Jewish faith leader. 

“Other homes host social get-togethers, such as Super Bowl parties and book clubs, and those happen regularly without penalty,” they say. And yet… “a Rabbi has to ask for permission to hold a religious gathering in his home? In America?”

"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," they added. 

What do you make of the case? Religious discrimination, or simply bureaucracy at work?


  1. Theresa C. Marquess's Avatar Theresa C. Marquess

    Very often houses of worship have been started in private homes with little or no fuss from government bodies. Years ago I belonged to such a church. Eventually, we grew and were able to build a building. No one made a fuss over our 'church services' being held in someone's living room or a few cars parked in the neighborhood. No fines were levied, and no one was persecuted. My prayers and good wishes go with the Rabbi and his congregation.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      I was in one of those too, and part of their appeal was that this was exactly how Jesus did his teaching, his church meetings were in homes.

      1. Theresa C. Marquess's Avatar Theresa C. Marquess

        It was very special being part of the beginnings of a new church. Meeting in someone's home gave us an opportunity to really get to know one another and understand the needs that we had for a church in our community. Yes, it was the way Jesus did his teaching. If a similar opportunity would present itself again in my lifetime, I would take it!

  1. Merlin's Avatar Merlin

    Zoning law violations. Must have been complaints due to traffic, parking and gathering with no regard to other residents. No different than allowing a pig farm or a scrap yard to operate in a residential zoned area. No discrimination. Local government doing the job they are paid to do.

    1. Carla's Avatar Carla

      I personally believe he was singled out because he applied for and was denied a permit. He should have just kept doing what he was doing by holding “prayer dinners” with friends. The HOA would have to prove that he was holding “church” in his home. Anyway one looks at it, I believe fining him is wrong.

      1. Clinton Troland Newton's Avatar Clinton Troland Newton

        Many years ago we went to a baptist church service in Hawaii. It was a small, intimate group, in the Pastor's home. We were welcomed like family and invited to attend a baptism in a bay of the Pacific. We were treated to a picnic on the beach and enjoyed our day enormously. I hope our presence didn't upset their neighbors too much! When we travel we always look for opportunities to interface with local people. The people we've met in Hawaii are at the top of my list for friendly welcome.
        Are the persons hosting a Super Bowl party being fined also? Clint

    2. Arlette O'Rourke's Avatar Arlette O'Rourke

      Federal law explicitly protects churches and other religious institutions and individuals from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use and zoning regulations. After learning that local land use and zoning regulations often placed burdens on religious congregations’ ability to practice their faith in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Congress enacted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc.


        "unduly burdensome" being the key words here. Courts have ruled, upheld on appeal that simply conforming to a regulation is not unduly burdensome.

        If that was the case, anyone could throw up a church sign in their front yard and circumvent the HOA or local zoning regulations.

        Being a "church" doesn't exempt an organization from the law. They still have to have a COA, have to register their church van with Big Brother, have to have insurance on that van, and have to buy a license plate for their church van.

    3. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

      The Religious Freedom Restoration Act will be used for sure. This was a piece of Clinton legislation and has already been used to protect home congregations in Texas. Yes. The same Clinton who acknowledged that Hawai'i had been stolen. That said, it is disgusting that Hawai'i has to continue to follow US law when Hawai'i should be s sovereign country.

      1. oy_gevalt's Avatar oy_gevalt

        "it is disgusting that Hawai'i has to continue to follow US law when Hawai'i should be s sovereign country"

        Then work to make it so rather than complain.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    If the Rabbi does not have the correct permits then hes at fault

    1. Pamela Vonbacho Ploof's Avatar Pamela Vonbacho Ploof

      When you have to get a permit for your Birthday party or Superbowl party next year and get to feel what persecution is about you will truly understand. My Amish neighbors have services in their home. The community alternates between the homes in the community every other week. It was a blessing to be asked to attend. I pray that the Rabbi is successful because if he isn't then religious freedom in America is very much in Jeopardy.

    2. Arlette O'Rourke's Avatar Arlette O'Rourke

      Federal law explicitly protects churches and other religious institutions and individuals from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use and zoning regulations. After learning that local land use and zoning regulations often placed burdens on religious congregations’ ability to practice their faith in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Congress enacted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc.

    3. Carla's Avatar Carla

      If he’s hosting people at his home and they just happen to be having food and prayer, there is absolutely no reason why the HOA should be involved. The fact that he brought it to the attention of the HOA by applying for a permit to hold church is what is against the HOA by laws.

  1. He Who Breathes's Avatar He Who Breathes

    How else do congregations start?

    It is almost always a small group of people, who then get larger, and at a certain point, go out and build, or purchase an establishment.

    Government departments have to be briefed on the subtleties of their jobs, with the emphasis on community, and the betterment of society, not just making laws and imposing restrictions.

    Of course the next step, would be outlawing all regular gatherings in peoples houses - now that would really be a step in the wrong direction.

    1. Ahmed Abduljabar Al-Hujazi's Avatar Ahmed Abduljabar Al-Hujazi

      What wasn't mentioned in the article is how many attendees there were. Up to a dozen or so, then I could see the fines as revenge by neighbors being inconvenienced once a week, but if it's a few dozen, then we're talking, not only a problem for the neighbors, but possibly a hazard to the attendees if there were a fire.

      1. John's Avatar John

        Agreed. If it tries as it invariably does that it should be required to meet all requirements for a house of worship. Perhaps the Rabbi is looking to get the benefits of a house of worship in his own home without having to meet the physical requirements of calling it a house of worship.

    2. Jerry D. Miller II's Avatar Jerry D. Miller II

      I think this depends upon lots of things. I had one neigbor that was holding prayer gatherings on Sunday mornings complete with MICROPHONES.

      The same thing happened down my block with a backyard gathering Sunday evenings, again with MICROPHONES, in Creole.

      The issue, is local ordinances are not made for individual interpetations, this means what's OK for one is OK for all. I have to side with the local authorities on this one.

      Hold your gatherings on ZOOM unless or until you are large enough to occupy a proper place.

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        There’s absolutely nothing wrong with microphones, however, if they are electronically attached to loudspeakers, that could be a problem 🤭


        1. Joel R Kahn's Avatar Joel R Kahn

          The Jewish restrictions include using electronic devices (computers, Zoom, light switches) on Sabbath, and Chabad follows strictly those biblical commands.

          I haver a friend who lives in an apartment building and a Chabad family lives down the hall. They have groups of people regularly, several times a week, talking, shouting and disturbing the neighbors. This exceeds the usual religious meeting exceptions.

          As long as the attendees are not parking all over the neighborhood or disturbing the peace this action is discrimination.

  1. Dorothy Hawkins's Avatar Dorothy Hawkins

    My uncle was a priest, stationed far from our family home. When he'd visit, we'd have a special Mass right in Mom and Dad's living room, with my uncle presiding. Neighbors would also be welcomed to attend the "home mass". "Whenever two or more of you are gathered in my have to have a permit to talk about me" said no religious figure, ever. I hope the rabbi is successful in his struggle here - because from the looks of the photo, pretty soon neighborly potluck gatherings will have to have permits, too!

  1. Merlin's Avatar Merlin

    Code violations. No different than operating a pig farm or a scrap yard in a residential zoned area. No religious persecution.

  1. John Alex Paxson's Avatar John Alex Paxson

    Another example of a government type money grab!!


    The comparison between similar uses only distinguished by their purpose ;one secular, the other religious would be winning argument. However, the frequency of gatherings and the impact those activities on local traffic and general atmosphere of the neighborhood may work against the Rabbi and his community. However, if the Rabbi through counsel can show the local council’s actions worked to signal out the Rabbi’s community more so than other residents engaging in regular at-home religious gatherings, plus showing the onerous nature of the required alterations imposed on religious use of property effectively single out the Rabbi’s community

    1. Robert Gagnon's Avatar Robert Gagnon

      He must have been warned before the fines were imposed. He did apply for the permits and refused to make the required upgrades, while continuing with the violations. He gets fined for continuing to violate codes. Then he doesn't pay them resulting in the fees he now owes. Would the upgrades cost less than the 40k he owes? Probably, government usually wins in these cases, good luck to him.

  1. David George Promis's Avatar David George Promis

    It’s a mad mad mad mad World 🌎

  1. Rev David Drudge's Avatar Rev David Drudge


  1. Lion on the Beach's Avatar Lion on the Beach

    I'm sure if the gentleman was holding some sort of a satanic, wiccan, sanitarian, or scientologist sing-along/ barbeque in his back yard, "All would be right" with the local anti-religious authorities.

    1. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

      Wiccan ceremonies are Pagan. Hawai'i is Pagan. The louses who brought Xianity to Hawai'i also killed off thousands of indigenous people and stole land for their damned sugar plantations. I'm happy to see the Abrahamic religions put in their place, and hope that Hawai'i can overcome the crap that those religions spew.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        Cool, then how about you big mouth, giving up your home and property to the Native Americans your ancestors stole it from? lets see if you cant stand up with your own principals like Ben and Jerrys who are still trying to remove the desenex from their back teeth and you are well on your way to following them.

      2. oy_gevalt's Avatar oy_gevalt

        How delightfully tolerant of you.

      3. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

        So now you're anti-Christian and anti-Muslim too?

        1. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

          They have no place in Hawai’i.

  1. Glen Marshall's Avatar Glen Marshall

    I wonder if there are Wiccans who host seasonal and lunar cycle gatherings at their homes. My guess is that there is at least one coven in the area. They may be willing to testify.

    On the other hand, I do expect zoning laws to be enforced regardless of the use for religious or non-religious gatherings.

  1. Melody D Barnes's Avatar Melody D Barnes

    People have the right to have who ever they want to visit with in their homes. This is totalitarian and draconian rules. Stop trying to totally control other people. I have 40 family members over for dinner, we visited and played cards. If they came once a week, that would be fine with me. Religious study of any kind is not a crime. Get out of private business of the people.

  1. Matthew W Meister's Avatar Matthew W Meister

    The basic premise here is nothing different than a bible study held in one's home. If the Rabbi must get special permits to hold meals and prayers at his home, and the same is not required of others serving meals to friends or having bible study at their home, the Rabbi makes an excellent case for discrimination based upon religion. From the "be careful what you wish for department", are you all ready to make the same changes to your homes that this entity is requiring from the Rabbi so that you can hold a Bible Study or invite friends or family over for meals?

  1. Farajallah Michael Yazbek's Avatar Farajallah Michael Yazbek

    I think the Rabbi has a valid case. If there are no formal services, and only a gathering of friends and the faithful for meals and prayers, then the County, State and local leaders are, indeed, in violation of the First Amendment, which begins with the words, "Congress shall make no law..." Congress has been declared by the US Supreme Court as any legal governing body that has jurisdiction over the residents of any particular community and is tax based for its operations. So I hope the Rabbi gets their attention with a HEFTY reward for practicing his faith as guaranteed by the Constitution.

  1. Rev. Elizabeth's Avatar Rev. Elizabeth

    He knew the rules in advance. Everyone must comply. Now he is using antisemitism as an excuse for being fined? It says in the article what the rules are when zones coded single family homes, a permit must be obtained.

    I just had a thought. Can people have parties in their homes? It’s a large gathering, assuming, right? He is practicing his religion with others, so, I’m trying to think how that works. He can say they are having a party and celebrating someone’s whatever. Right? I can see why he won’t get a permit. But he knew what he was doing. He could have prevented all this if he went to his city hall. He is practicing his work without a permit. I don’t think this man is going to win. He’s just hurting himself financially.

    Maybe he should apologize for forgetting and apply for the proper permits so they can practice their religion without outside interference? Wouldn’t that be better? They literally have a law. It doesn’t say why he a not obtaining the proper permits? Is it his faith or is he a rebel? Black and white choice in the courts, he will lose. There is a law. Maybe this ruling is to protect these neighborhoods from so many different practices and heavier traffic and who knows what is going on in these unsupervised gatherings? It can get scary, right?

    I agree with him, but I don’t. This is his work, how he supports himself. You do need a permit for doing your work at your home that is zoned for single family homes neighborhood. So the law says he is wrong and at the same time I understand what he is fighting for. Unfortunately they are not going to go away and he will be fine heavily. Go to court and fight it. How long has he been there. They say when the law was enacted. Was there an outside vote for this? Did they inform the public! So much can happen. So many avenues to look at. He needs a good lawyer.

    What do you all think? Him saying antisemitism, is he wrong? Right?

    1. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

      I'm sorry, it sounds like you are conflicted about this. Your first sentence rules against him, While the rest of your comment sounds like you are trying to help him come up with an excuse for the courts.

      1. Rev David Drudge's Avatar Rev David Drudge

        Stand with Anti Hebrew Semite Genocide that continues against humanity and Christ. Our history of atrocities only surrounds our present day existence. It can be scary right? Who is your Judas? Who's War is this anyway? Lol

        1. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

          Huh? I can't even figure out what you're saying.

          1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

            I think maybe he's satirizing or mocking perhaps. Thanks tend to get blown up very quickly these days.

      2. Rev. Elizabeth's Avatar Rev. Elizabeth

        Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

        What are you sorry about? Because I’m am conflicted about his predicament?

        Is that what you do, come on here and critique the way people write their feelings on an issue? No input on how you feel about the issue? I was hoping for insights from others because I am conflicted. I’m not Jewish. I have had Bible studies at my home and I’ve been to others homes or we would go to church and work in the kitchen area. Wherever we all could gather. Never had a problem at all. This is a first for me. I read the law and I’m all for people to be free to practice their faith where they want as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. Maybe he has too many at his house steadily and it is impeding traffic for his neighbors? Not enough information in this article. So I feel conflicted. I don’t see a problem with that. If someone could feed me the entire picture then I won’t be conflicted.

        I need to search and see if you do the same thing to others. I did and you did. 🤦🏼‍♀️

        1. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

          Actually, I DID reply to this article. But that would require people reading further than their own noses. And No, I don't generally comment on "how" people voice their thoughts. But your particular post stood out as "against" him, and stating he should pay. Then you were sort of for him. But then you were against him again. Then you question the whole thing to say you don't know? You were very critical of him, and in the end tried to make it sound like you aren't sure what to think. How about thinking before you speak. Decide if you are going to ask a question, or weigh in with an opinion of "guilty" OR "innocent". You simply can't try to do all three in the same breath. It comes out all garbled and senseless. Is your brain garbled and lacking sense, Reverend Elizabeth? Do you express yourself the same way through your ministry when you site the Bible? I sure hope not.

          AND, no, I don't like being critical of others. But if I don't agree with someone, I'm not afraid to voice my opinions.

      3. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

        Hey hp Beth, I agree with you, people shouldn't be allowed to have opinions if they aren't stridently extreme and only in one direction, only the simplest of simple simple simple is allowed. Keep It Simple. You go girl.

  1. Rev. Elizabeth's Avatar Rev. Elizabeth

    He knew the rules in advance. Everyone must comply. Now he is using antisemitism as an excuse for being fined? It says in the article what the rules are when zones coded single family homes, a permit must be obtained.

    If he is having a lot of people on the day they practice their religion and it affects his neighborhood, maybe he should get a permit. Maybe they should think of renting a small club every time they practice.

    He is now charging antisemitism against the people who are fining him for not complying with the rules of that neighborhood. He’s just hurting himself financially. Those are big fines. I understand his passion and wanting his followers to be comfortable. They aren’t now. No one wants to see their leader hurt. I’m keeping an eye on this one.

    1. Rev. Rory's Avatar Rev. Rory

      It was hard to know from this article if it is antisemitism or not. Do Christian households have bible study? Does he collect money from his followers? Are there 5 cars in his driveway or are people parked all the way up the street? There is a lot missing here. As an ordained person that can perform marriages (religious or not) I know that I can't do so in my home. HOA rules. I will admit that I do not care for any neighborhood controlled by an HOA but there is little choice around here. I can WORK from home, on a computer, but I can't CONDUCT business at my home. Also, in my town should I have a private party, I have to get a permit for cars to be parked on the street. No permit and everyone gets a ticket or worse, they are towed away. I wish the Rabi well and I hope that he and his city can come to a reasonable resolution.

      1. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

        Comment removed by user.

    2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      Nope sorry but the 1st Amendment clearly says you cannot pass a law that violates another persons religions. As such you are completely wrong and he will win in court and the Island will have to change their laws toot sweet or get nailed by the 9th US District or the SCOTUS if it gets that far

      1. Gerard Anthony Ritchie's Avatar Gerard Anthony Ritchie

        I guess the defence lawyers will argue that local government have to ensure that the application of the constitution is fair to all citizens and that is what they are doing. They have created a process that enables people free expression of their religion including free association, free assembly etc without inconveniencing other citizens that are not affiliated with that religion and also protects those that are affiliated by ensure that any premises that are used are safe and fit for purpose. So, all tge Rabbi has to do is make the necessary arrangements to his home to make it fit for purpose or find alternative premises that are. I presume the same would apply if the Rabbi was a Christian minister or a Muslim Immam. With the limited facts in the article I don't think it passess the test as a violation of the constitution, unless there are other circumstances we are not aware of.

        1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

          And what the local government must do is make sure that if you have a party or a BBQ or a typical Hawaiian celebration then you better make sure you have the permits for it or it now falls into selective prosecution which is illegal in all 50 states as well as under federal law.

    3. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

      That's the order of the day. If anyone who is Jewish feels picked on, s/he plays the antisemitism card. Fortunately, it doesn't work as well as it used to. People are getting sick to death of it.

      1. oy_gevalt's Avatar oy_gevalt

        Wow. Are you racist, too?

      2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

        You're right lady mudcat. Time for a pogrom!

    4. Arlette O'Rourke's Avatar Arlette O'Rourke

      Federal law explicitly protects churches and other religious institutions and individuals from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use and zoning regulations. After learning that local land use and zoning regulations often placed burdens on religious congregations’ ability to practice their faith in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Congress enacted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        Sorry but you are wrong. The Supreme Court held in Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005), that the institutionalized- persons section of RLUIPA did not violate the Establishment Clause, finding that it serves to “alleviate[ ] exceptional government-created burdens on private religious exercise."

        Did you get that part? "alleviate exceptional government-created burdens on private religious exercise." meaning that when the local government tries to stop religious services, they CANT.

  1. Paul's Avatar Paul

    I have sympathy for neighbours contending with additional traffic, parking, and noise in what should be a quiet residential area. It's not unreasonable if the gatherings are limited to say 12 people around a table or occasional larger numbers similar to a social gathering / party. Regular weekly numbers implying a place of worship is taking the pee though. Not enough information in the article to judge. It's called a Center and he's applied for permits, not approved though so this suggests more than a meal and prayers. On balance I'm with the planning authority on this one. I'd say the same regardless of the religion involved. Find a more appropriate building in a more suitable place. The fines are ridiculous though but if you're going to ignore compliance notices for long enough that's what happens.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      And since the houses in Hawaii are like Row houses almost, how can anyone then not complain when someone is having a housewarming party or a birthday party or any other gathering that does the same thing? Or are they trying selective prosecution?

  1. Michael Robinson's Avatar Michael Robinson

    There is no permit required for people to gather for any purpose as guests on private property.

    The Rabbi's home is not open to the public, nor is it publicly owned. It is Private Property.

    This is just another assault on Private Property Rights.

    It's not necessarily directed as an assault on Judaism anymore than smoking bans where an assault on smokers: the government merely desires to eliminate the legal right for citizens to own and use personal property.

    The government is being deliberately unlawful with a greater nefarious purpose in mind. .

    1. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

      You are COMPLETELY wrong. Just try not paying your taxes for a few years and see how far that private property argument gets you. The MAGAt/Libertarian train loads waaaay over to the right.

      1. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

        Comment removed by user.

      2. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

        This has nothing to do with paying taxes. And if he IS paying his taxes, all the more reason to leave him alone on his Private Property.

  1. John Parks's Avatar John Parks

    This is clearly another example of Government overreach. The Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    That is the highest law of the land and supersedes all other laws. Nothing there about needing a permit to hold church services. Separation of church and State is a construct that just isn't in the Constitution. It is very clear that the municipality is violating the first amendment in this case. That first sentence is quite clear, and should be taken literally.

    Many churches have small groups that meet during the week for Bible studies. According to the persecution that this Rabbi is undergoing, small groups could be next. I very often pray over meals eaten in restaurants with groups of friends. It may offend some, but that is their problem. I'm just exercising my first amendment rights.

  1. Jim Rosenberg's Avatar Jim Rosenberg

    Almost certainly unconstitutional and very likely anti-Semitic, great combination. I especially liked the need for better waste water disposal. There is a rule book somewhere which requires a toilet for so many people, hardly a good reason.

    1. Don James Buckel's Avatar Don James Buckel

      Great point Jim. Thank you. Lady Mutt Cat, "The antisemitic care is a little old"... WHAT??? People of all faiths have been and are being beaten, maimed, killed every day, all over the world. You, Jim, Rabbi Levi, and everyone in the world should have the right to freely enjoy openly practicing their religion. Instead of rolling eyes over what is being said/done, we should ALL be standing up for everyone to worship they way they believe is right. Talking, debating, discussions, acceptance, not hate, fear, beatings, murders is what this world needs. I accept you Jim, for who you are, and I respect your opinion. I accept you Lady Mutt Cat for who you are, and I respect your opinion. I just do not agree with it.

      1. oy_gevalt's Avatar oy_gevalt

        Beautifully stated.

        1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

          Except that she's not an anti-Semite, she's an anti-Jew.

          1. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

            Sorry to disappoint you. I’m a secular Jew. And I am religiously a Pagan. And it makes me sick to see the Abrahamic religions continue to destroy Hawai’i’s Pagan roots.

    2. Lady Mutt Cat's Avatar Lady Mutt Cat

      Oh, please. The antisemitic card is a little old. Thankfully, it's losing its power. People see that card for what it is: an excuse to destroy Gaza and anything else that they don't like. Guess this rabbi thinks he's too good to obey zoning laws. Or don't God's Chosen People have to comply with secular laws?

      1. Maximillian Martin's Avatar Maximillian Martin

        You're absolutely right!! Most of these people crying about so called anti Semitism don't even know what or who Semitic people are!!! I'll give you a's NOT exclusive to jews!!! So in this case, there's no discrimination there!! He follows Hawaiian laws or gets shut down and fined!!!!

      2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

        So all Jews worldwide are at fault for what Israel does, Mutt and Max? And the people who hate Jews is wrong because of the technicality which 99% of people don't even know, that Jews aren't the only Semites, which means we really should call them anti Jews, so all their anti-Semitism is misplaced even though 99% of everybody means Jews when they say "anti-Semite." So I guess all those people are going to suddenly doing Emily Litella, "never mind, sorry Jews, we didn't mean you." Good thinking there.

        How about this, you're doing the same thing if you think that all Jews are Israel (actually Israel's government at that). Yeah, sounds like you ARE anti-Semitic. Plus you can't think obviously, making the same mistake you accuse other people of making about groups and labels. Not that there's anything wrong with that, right?

  1. Don James Buckel's Avatar Don James Buckel

    Rabbi Levi Gerlitzky, I hope your community (Jewish and gentile alike) stand up with you for what is right! Reading some of the other comments, I agree that you have the right to gather, eat, pray and praise God. If people need a permit for that, then any time we see someone in a diner praying with other people they (we) should also be fined! Sorry for yelling... This just upset me.

    Rabbi, I pray that God will open the peoples eyes and stand up to help you.

    God bless you.

  1. Gail A. Miller's Avatar Gail A. Miller

    People host book club meetings, study groups for school, play dates for toddlers, Tupperware or other goods parties, bible studies, and specific celebrations (showers, birthdays, etc.) in private homes. I once had 17 people as guests in my home for at least 12 hours and I only have one single, solitary bathroom. Thankfully, none of my neighbors are tattletales and didn't report me for that. Sounds to me like some bureaucrat with nothing better to do and a bit of a dislike for Jews decided to make a big deal out of it. Reminds me of when someone call the cops on a kid for selling lemonade to make money...there's always one person who is so unhappy they don't want happiness for anyone else, as well.


    Whoa whoa whoa there guy.

    On the other "Is a frozen embryo a baby" article you were all screaming SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE at the top of your lungs.

    What happened?

    Pick either side and stick to it. Stop flip-flopping to suit your agenda. Some of you guy are as bad as politicians. You can't have your cake and eat it to. Either it's separation of church and state or it isn't.


  1. Carol M. Anaski-Figurski's Avatar Carol M. Anaski-Figurski

    Well interesting topic. Check with your village first. Do you need a business permit to be a reverand in a home base business. Some villages say no. Ask then if they could issue a permit for small business per your own standard anyway. Typically the village will tell you one person at a time. However. a celebration or a bible study can be an occasion like a holiday or super bowl. A place to pray or do scripture can be called house of worship or worship hour. It does not need to be called a church @ a home base business. There's a lot of gray areas & wiggle room to modern ministry.

  1. Alexander Arends's Avatar Alexander Arends

    I believe this is religious persecution and an infringement on our freedoms. It is like saying you can no longer have bible study groups on any given evening unless your home is handicap accessible, meet parking requirements, install elevators or whatever. A denomination I belonged to originated in the basement of someone's home until we outgrew it and were able to rent a church building from Seventh Day Adventist.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    He will win in court eventually and the county will end up paying his bills including his legal bills, along with that society that's helping him. Apparently these days it's better to be gay than Jewish in the United States. But a conservative court is going to make sure and so will a liberal Court, and the equivalent use will make an argument, but it may take getting into federal court to make it happen.

    1. Larry Michael Damato's Avatar Larry Michael Damato



      1. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

        I believe you missed the point. To say, "Apparently these days it's better to be gay than Jewish..." has more to do with the fact that this Rabbi is being persecuted for religious rights (mind you, the Jewish community has been around for 3,500 years), while the whole gay LBTQ+ community is finally being socially accepted again after 2,000 years. (Keeping in mind the 2,000 years refers to gay rights back during the Roman Empire, where it was totally acceptable to be attracted to men and women, regardless of your gender. Not sure where this one fell off the wagon.)

        If this hit a nerve with you, please take a chill pill. There was nothing in his sentence, or his statement, that you should find offensive.

        1. Larry Michael Damato's Avatar Larry Michael Damato


      2. oy_gevalt's Avatar oy_gevalt

        I am both, and I don't get your point. And please, stop shouting.

  1. Pamela Shuttleworth's Avatar Pamela Shuttleworth

    This smacks of unadulterated antisemitism. Fight for your right to worship! This truly singling out a specific group. We cannot be silent. Silence = complicity.

    1. Paul's Avatar Paul

      I don't see any indication that the planning law restrictions in Hawaii apply only to Jewish places of worship. They appear to apply to all religions. Therefore not anti-Semitic.

    2. Sandra A Rasmussen's Avatar Sandra A Rasmussen

      You are absolutely right! It definitely reeks of World War II Europe! Is this what it’s coming to in our country? This is definitely not in the constitution! They have the right! Shame on the US🤬

  1. TJ's Avatar TJ

    It is odd that the Rabbi had to have a permit to have a gathering simply because those in his group are of a denomination. For those that pray over their food before eating could be seen as a religious gathering. As a gathering is typically seen as two or more people. What is missing in the article is was there disturbances to neighbors of any sort? How many people does the law for the permit state is considered a gathering. If it simply states that churches must have have a permit to operate this is people of the same denomination at a house not at the church (from the article); however there is so many coming over and it's disturbing traffic and also the safey of those in attendance, because of sheer numbers) this would be a reason for acquiring a permit as most gatherings beyond a certain size are considered a hazard and normally you would have to rent a hall etc. I believe in religious freedoms but we must also in practice do so responsibly. It seems the Rabbi tried but was denied (based on article).

  1. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

    So... If someone is sick, and a Priest, Pastor, Rabbi, or Imam are asked to come to the house to pray over the sick person, and that persons entire family shows up, does that make it illegal??? Come on! Who cares if it was in his home. Plenty of people around the World have prayer meetings in their homes. Does that make them criminals??? This is ridiculous! Just because I have a big backyard, and invite a group of Wiccans to my house to celebrate a Sabbat? Does that mean I'm going to have a $40,000 fine? I understand that there are laws. But there are limits, even to laws... and THAT is why we have a legal system. I say, More power to you, Rabbi! Do we even need to mention that COVID is still a very real thing to an extreme right now? It continues to mutate. I have had my vaccines, and I had Covid (for the second time) for the entire month of January, and it nearly killed me this time. True story. If this group is trying to avoid covid, that, in and of itself, would justify having a gathering at someone's house, to avoid larger crowds. Has he turned his home into a Temple? Looks to me like the Rabbi has a few men around his dining room table. Did he file for Religious Organization status? THEN I'd have an issue. For goodness sakes. They are just reading the Bible and having a discussion. I hope he wins his case. This does sound to me like religious persecution. Just say'n. If not that, then the county is trying to gain their annual funds covered through charging this man fines. Seriously. Who is he disturbing with these gatherings? Probably not his neighbors, because Jewish Communities tend to be very close - the houses surrounding his are probably the very same people who are coming to visit him.

    Peace & Blessings,

    Sister Beth

    1. Paul's Avatar Paul

      It appears to have gone further than that and a domestic house is being used as a place of worship. Jewish Center. Not somewhere people just meet up to eat and pray. Surely you can tell the difference.

      1. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

        Comment removed by user.

      2. Pastor~HP~Sister Beth's Avatar Pastor~HP~Sister Beth

        Seriously? That's what you pulled out of my comment? It sounds like you wrote that just so you could insult me. Are YOU religious, Paul? If so, do you pray at home? Or do you reserve your prayers only for while you are at Church? Worship can happen wherever you are.

        I said nothing about "eating and praying." I said they were gathered around his dining room table. But if they are also being fed, that stands to reason, because food is a big part of Jewish culture and faith. And here are the facts...

        You (Anyone) are either religious or not. Anyone with true faith in their beliefs are religious throughout their entire day. They don't just believe and practice when they have gatherings. They are believers 24/7. So does that mean we should all be fined or arrested for praying while walking down the street also? Seriously. My home is as much my religious sanctuary as it is a place where I eat and lay down my head at night. Does that mean I'm legally out of line? When I step outside, I am in the presence of God, just as much as I am while sitting at my personal altar, cooking, cleaning my house, etc., or stepping into a store to buy food that nourishes my mind as well as my body.

        Point is, this is the Rabbi's home, and as such, his home will reflect his faith. Why not have people over to study and pray. I was always with the understanding that owning a home. and what you do in that home, is your business, because it is private property. So unless there are financial transactions taking place, or he is touting "My house is now the local Synagogue!" everywhere he goes, to bring in more "followers", then having gatherings at his home shouldn't be an issue, even with his neighbors. I mean, for goodness sake, it's not like they are standing outside hollering their prayers. Although they should be allowed to do that also - Religious Freedom, after all.

        People just need to chill out. The government, the locals, even the Rabbi and his group, and especially HERE at The Monastery... we all sound like we're arguing just for the sake of arguing, and its getting ridiculous.

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    Something here seems wrong. How is this any different from an in-home Christian Bible Study? Have the neighbors complained? Have police been called out? Is there some physical signage or building modifications that make this house a Synagogue? It all sounds like sour grapes to me.

    1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

      Doesn’t sound like sour grapes. It sounds like the situation is something that may involve tax benefits. If so, then follow the rules. Bible studies don’t get tax breaks, do they?

    2. Paul's Avatar Paul

      Yeah. It's been called a Jewish Center. You don't put that signage on a home.

      1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

        Yes Paul and that might have been an error in judgment or inexperience by that Rabbi... He did say that after all this, all they were looking for was a place for meals and prayers, and that sounds pretty informal and not particularly professional or business minded in the first place... He might just have been naive or ignorant, but there is no limitation on the size of a church.

  1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

    It sounds as if this is a potential tax situation. If so then those benefits can’t be had without following all the rules and regulations. Period.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    As long as it's free, and just a handful of people then I don't see a problem. But, if there's a crowd, there's a safety issue, without the upgrades. If he's collecting any money, then that can be an issue too.

  1. Ian Mcleod's Avatar Ian Mcleod

    Good Rabbi, welcome to the good old USA, a country where your rights mean nothing at all and yet the USA goes out and attacks other nations for very similar situations, so go to court and lose it will give you something to fight for afterwards in a higher court and that will cost more??

  1. Rev. Z.D. Caballero's Avatar Rev. Z.D. Caballero

    I think this comes down to definitions and nomenclature. If the Rabbi hadn't called his home a Jewish Center, this would have been a moot point because freedom of association protects him and his fellow practitioners.

    I am sure that in the same community where the Rabbi lives there must be at least one other house where, say, a weekly Christian Bible study takes place, among friends. There even might be some friends who practice Buddhist meditation in the back yard of another house. Or Native Hawaiian religious dances and ceremonies. They don't need a permit, right? However, if they incorporate as a religious community, then they cease being people protected under the constitution and become juridical persons, a religious non-profit business, with all the requirements the law has established.

    Let's be Salomonic about this. Fines for everyone! Or, a free for all! Or abolish the Sacred Piece of Paper housed in the Holy Museum, and start from scratch. Or... How about fixing the potholes and collecting the trash, providing better housing for the tons of Hawaiians who can barely afford to live in their land? We humans are so fond of losing focus of what really is important: treating one another like humans.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      For that matter nobody knows if this rabbi isn't also Hawaiian (Polynesian). It's possible to be both. A lot of juice in the 9th century were Asian martial horsemen from the Steppes, and today there are over a million black Jews from Ethiopia, plus Whoopi Goldberg and some Chinese Jews I know... Plus a whole bunch of Chinese Christians and Philippine Catholics. In about a million Hispanic Jews, they must not have all got the memo.

  1. Ari Joseph Bertine's Avatar Ari Joseph Bertine

    I agree that it's unconstitutional. If his neighbors can have parties, if anyone in that neighborhood can have a barbecue without a permit, then he should be allowed to have prayer gatherings without one. Adding prayer to a dinner party does not suddenly and magically make it have different physical requirements from a barbecue. If prayer is literally the only difference, then it is being discriminated against.

    1. Joe Bennett's Avatar Joe Bennett

      How many people in most neighborhoods have parties every Friday night? Obviously, some of the neighbors had to make a complaint to involve the municipality. Maybe the Rabbi should consider how the neighbors are affected on a weekly basis before crying antisemitism.

      1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

        Yeah or maybe all those people have those noisy parties should apply to become a church. Who knows, maybe they could get discounts on there guns, drugs, and booze too.

  1. Arlette O'Rourke's Avatar Arlette O'Rourke

    Federal law explicitly protects churches and other religious institutions and individuals from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use and zoning regulations. After learning that local land use and zoning regulations often placed burdens on religious congregations’ ability to practice their faith in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Congress enacted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA

  1. Sidney Baumgarten's Avatar Sidney Baumgarten

    While this may appear to be the result of anti-Semitism, I am more persuaded it is just the bureaucracy at work. Technically, the county officials may be right to require that appropriate safety measures be taken, but I cannot see how a private home should be barred from holding a religious service. As others have noted, if you have an ordinary party in your home, no one cares how many people are in the house.. On the humorous side, will the county object if you have 10 children, 2 grandparents, and others living with you? How many is too many?

  1. Jerry D. Miller II's Avatar Jerry D. Miller II

    If only things were as simple as we'd like. There well be an HOA that supercedes local ordinances.

    I had one neigbor that was holding prayer gatherings on Sunday mornings complete with MICROPHONES.

    The same thing happened down my block with a backyard gathering Sunday evenings, again with MICROPHONES, in Creole. I could hear the sermon from 6 houses away , with my windows closed.

    The issue, is local ordinances are not made for individual interpetations, this means what's OK for one is OK for all. I have to side with the local authorities on this one.

    As far as "freedom of expression", this gets dicey real quick. While we do have "freedom of speech", we do not have the freedom to yell "active shooter" in the foodcourt mall.

    Hold your gatherings on ZOOM unless or until you are large enough to occupy a proper place.

  1. Gureg Amun Ankh's Avatar Gureg Amun Ankh

    You know, hate and manipulation comes in many forms, sometimes hand in hand, a similar situation happened in a little town in rural Georgia Eatonton),a Reverend acquire 476 acres and used 19 of them to build a church and other facilities for his congregation,this rev was African American and most of his congregation was, although anyone could be apart and was welcome, the place was beautifully built, cultural, planning &zoning gave them such a hard time, and the reason why, it was being controlled by a racist sheriff who ran that county, the people were harass day in day out they did the same thing this rabbi did took it to court and won because of constitutional violations by the planning & zoning who were being controlled by the county sheriff, hate and injustice go hand in hand when it comes to religion and culture an race, I hope everything turns out good, however be prepared for a battle and have your facts straight and well documented.

  1. Alan Delayne Hart's Avatar Alan Delayne Hart

    LISTEN UP PEOPLE. The county is charging the "name" the rabbi was assigned a few days after his nativity and by the abatement process he can deflect the the lawsuit by sending the summons back to the issuing fictitious entity explaining they need to correct the charging documents to reflect his given name in lieu of the government dba First,Middle, Last. He might include an affidavit of Denial of Corporate Existence. The letter should be delivered by notary presentment with reply requested to be made to the notary not the rabbi.The notary public should comprehend the process and that should end the controversy.

    YOU ARE NOT THE NAME THE GOVERNMENT GAVE YOU A FEW DAYS AFTER YOUR NATIVITY. IS THAT CLEAR? The summons is essentially an invitation to contract and all formal invitations must be properly answered in 72 hours according to contract law. Usually the best answer is a conditional acceptance. "If you have a wet ink signed contract that i agreed to not use my home for religious services then either produce it or show you have a bond in the amount of 100,000 ounces of 99.99 % silver to cover your liability and be sure to include the nature and cause of this action and/or the given and surname of any party that claims injury". 'For educational purposes'

  1. Stanley Taubman's Avatar Stanley Taubman

    “He knew the rules”??? So did Jesus and the revolutionary founders of our country. Shouldn’t the focus be on the righteousness, the morality of the rules? Are the rules fair or discriminatory.

    There are so many recurrent gatherings held in people’s homes. Classes, support group meetings, political interest groups, sewing circles and quilting bees, neighborhood associations….. These gatherings aren’t regulated in people’s homes, nor should they be. This rabbi and his fellow worshippers are being discriminated against. By singling out religious gatherings the regulatin itself is discriminatory. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is also being enforced in a discriminatory manner.

  1. Ronaldo's Avatar Ronaldo

    The permit was denied because the local government saw various safety concerns with the building and the number of people it holds during these services. Fire marshals have occupancy limits due to potential safety problems, and the regulations regarding permits and inspections are a part of that. Will this rabbi hold God responsible if he ignores these potential problems and something happens that kills or harms a lot of his congregation? As a Christian minister, I am well aware that I cannot 'slide' on any secular laws because of my beliefs.

    1. Farajallah Michael Yazbek's Avatar Farajallah Michael Yazbek

      But there are constantly similar SECULAR gatherings of the same size in his neighborhood with no similar requirements. Some neighbor has obviously been offended by someone actually doing something right and has complained. This is usually what is happening when this sort of fine gets levied. If this is the law, what is to stop the county or city from imposing the same restrictions on Channuka or Passover gatherings and Christmas trees and parties, which certainly celebrate religion. Christmas is the celebration of the nativity, and the coming of God as man so that man may become more like God. This same logic prohibits without permits Christmas Caroling and gathering for Eid and Ramadan in the homes of the faithful, and even kids' birthday parties, which are based on Christmas celebrations, as well. No, the county is absolutely wrong in this one. And if anyone ever came to my home and told me I couldn't have a Super Bowl watch party without a permit I would tell them to go and pound sand, unless they get EVERY Super Bowl Party host into compliance. Then I would be actively looking for a whole slate of candidates to replace the sitting thugs that want to stop people from having peaceful gatherings.

      1. Don James Buckel's Avatar Don James Buckel

        Amen! Very well said. I loved that you used the super bowl as an example of un-permitted gatherings. In my opinion, the only reason this wonderful Rabbi is in trouble, is because these were religious gatherings. The U.S. was founded on religious freedom... What happened?

        1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

          Maybe the rabbi should just say they're gathering to watch a ball game. "See you at the ball game party (wink)." Wasn't that a big joke among economists for a long time, and politicians, everybody got so upset when the Federal reserve talked about the economy that everybody agreed instead they would call it a banana. "Three years ago the banana went through a recession." Because everybody went froot loops when they talked about the economy.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Back in the day, I wonder if it was anctually illegal to hold Tupperware Parties 🤔. Does anyone remember those? Do they still exist?


    1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

      My mom hosted one once back in the 80s. The agent had to have a license but otherwise it was treated like a party as far as the homeowner was concerned if they were not the one selling. That was 35/40 years ago in the pacific northwest. Laws on such things do change from time to time and it's important to check locally what those laws are before hosting large groups of anything. Somet districts don't allow for it.

  1. James Grainger's Avatar James Grainger

    I feel that if his services are interfering with the neighborhood due to traffic, interfering with daily flow, then he violates the first amendment, Separation of church and state. Get a permit. If it is the neighbors complaining, then it might be religious prejudice, and they are violating the first amendment, then they should "get over it" Religious differences and prejudice, are half the world's problems.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      So let me get this straight, you're saying that if he creates a parking problem, that violates everybody else in the neighborhoods right to free speech? That's what you just said.

  1. Donald Anthony Tierney's Avatar Donald Anthony Tierney

    Simply a scam to avoid paying property taxes.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      Right, $40,000 a year property tax for this little home. Good thinking.

  1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

    Honestly if his area had laws and required some sort of licenses or some such to host such a thing then it's a clear case of not following those laws. If there are no such laws then I agree, he is being targeted with discrimination. I'm not part of the religion but I am from this country. Last I checked we were still free to practice whatever religion we belonged to freely as long as we were not hurting anyone else. Being religious doesn't excuse anyone from following those laws.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Where's Potter Stewart when you need him?

  1. Melaine Rae Thompson's Avatar Melaine Rae Thompson

    I don’t see where what he is doing is any different than members of a congregation meeting for Bible studies at a residence.

  1. Donald J. Schutz's Avatar Donald J. Schutz

    Hello brothers and sisters. I did not read more than. He did not Acquire the proper Permits, he's using his 2% of population for tears for his favor.

  1. Takaya Kovani Sweeney's Avatar Takaya Kovani Sweeney

    This is dumb. I am in NO WAY religious anything, nor atheist but I am live and let live without harm.

    Do people there have to permit for family gatherings or parties that aren’t extremely large? If so, fine…that’s even and fair, end of discussion.

    We have lived in several gated communities and you only have to mention anything if it’s going to be 10+ people.

    If more, you have to book the clubhouse.

    Also, there’s a noise cut off time.

    This is responsible and respectful for all involved.

    If these people weren’t 20 deep, blocking people’s drives or causing a raucous, what’s the issue here?


    Just change the sign in your front yard to read "LQBTG Synagogue", and the town will run like a whipped puppy, Rabbi.
    Throw up one of them rainbow flags for good measure on the flagpole in your yard and you'll never see a city building inspector again.

    Save yourself 40G and a lot of attorney fees on a case you're about to lose.

  1. Beth's Avatar Beth

    I would say "It depends". It depends on the size of the gatherings and how much noise or other disruption of the neighborhood is involved.

    If it's 2 or 3 carsfull of people, making little to no noise at reasonable hours when most people are awake, it should be okay - not appreciably different than someone having any other small gathering. If they are loud - especially using electronic speaker systems it shouldn't be viewed any differently than someone playing a stereo/music that loudly at that time. Or, if they're adding 30-40 cars on a residential street every few days - that's too many people, and disrupting the neighborhood... or their neighbors peaceful enjoyment of their own homes.

    Most pagan groups meet in homes, and it's unreasonable for each of them to get permits. Other minority religions may not be big enough in a given area to be able to afford their own church/temple/gathering space, so meet in someone's home. So are many prayer meetings or Bible studies of Christian groups.

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