Until the late 20th century, the most rigorously traditional Jews, haredi Jews (often referred to as “ultra-Orthodox”) tended to congregate in New York City. But as New York became more expensive and haredi population grew due to high birth rates, some haredi Jews (known collectively as “haredim”) moved to small towns and outer suburbs in search of cheaper land, sometimes creating towns dominated by haredim such as Kiryas Joel, New York and Lakewood, New Jersey. As haredi populations have continued to grow, their households now seek undeveloped land outside these enclaves. But as haredim move deeper into the countryside, zoning conflicts have multiplied; residents of nearby rural and suburban towns often do not want haredi settlements nearby, and seek to use zoning and other forms of land use regulation to keep them out. Although some of these anti-haredi policies are unconstitutional, the need to litigate over them nevertheless wastes time and money. Nevertheless, haredi communities have an incentive to avoid conflicts with non-haredi suburbs, because even successful litigation is costly, time-consuming, and may lead to avoidable ill-will with residents of those communities. My article suggests that haredi communities can avoid such conflicts through a “smart growth” strategy: towns such as Lakewood can zone for more dense housing in the centers of their towns, thus reducing the need for expansion into other towns. A smart growth policy would also benefit haredim in a variety of less-political ways. First, where commercial development is scattered widely across the landscape, people may need to own a car to access shops and jobs in other neighborhoods –a significant hardship for lower-income haredi households. Second, smart growth reduces costs for school busing. If haredim lived in more compact communities, more students would live within walking distance to their schools, and thus communal busing costs would be lower. Third, more compact development, by reducing auto traffic, reduces the environmental harms from constant vehicle travel. Numerous studies have found that high levels of automobile traffic contribute to localized air pollution, which in turn increases heart disease, asthma, and similar problems- not just in major cities, but even in areas with low levels of overall pollution. Finally, a reduction in auto traffic is likely to lead to fewer injuries from car crashes.
Lewyn, Michael, "Bringing Judaism Downtown: A Smart Growth Policy for Orthodox Jews" (2021). Scholarly Works. 744.
University of Baltimore Law Review