A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the village of Atlantic Beach from taking land from a Jewish group, suggesting city leaders may be doing so with discriminatory intent.
Judge Joanna Seybert, a Clinton appointee, issued a preliminary injunction as the litigation continues, reasoning the city had years to use the land that the Chabad Lubavitch of the Beaches, a Hasidic Jewish movement affiliate, purchased in 2021 but chose only to move to utilize the land for community purpose after the Jewish group moved in.
The religious group wanted to use the land for worship, outreach and Jewish education.
“Defendants’ decision to acquire the Property by eminent domain will burden Chabad’s religious exercise by curtailing its outreach mission to the Jewish community,” the judge wrote.
The property, 2025 Park Street, had been vacant for years — and was up for sale or lease for two years before the purchase.
After the deal was completed and the group held a lighting of a menorah outdoors, village officials moved in February to take the property through eminent domain, which allows the government to take private property for public use with fair compensation.
City officials wanted to use it for a lifeguard center.
The south shore village has a population of about 1,700 people.
“Chabad of the Beaches is grateful that Judge Seybert has stopped the Village – at least for now – from taking its property,” said Jeremy Dys, senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, representing the Jewish group. “We hope this decision today encourages the Village of Atlantic Beach to welcome Chabad of the Beaches to its community, rather than spending even more taxpayer dollars to keep them out.”
Lawyers for the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment.