LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A rabbi in New Jersey is in a burial bind.
Religious items that should be buried instead ended up on a dirt road following a struggle between the rabbi and the state.
It is an unbelievable sight.
More than 1,000 bags, filled with Jewish religious items, piled up along a dirt road in Lakewood.
The bags are part of an Orthodox Jewish custom known as shamos, where books and other sacred objects must be buried not destroyed.
Court papers show the bags were illegally buried at the location, but recently were dug up after a judge ordered the rabbi responsible to remove them.
Larry Simons, Jewish himself, first alerted the state’s Department of Environmental Protection about the bags.
“This has been since 2010,” Simons told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan on Friday. “I have to obey the law; you have the obey the law. That’s what the law is for.”
There are hundreds of bags at the site. Simons said they are just a portion of what was initially dumped. Many of the bags are split open with religious items in them.
In fact, CBS 2’s Sloan found two prayer shawls with tire marks over them.
“Religious items — this to me is profane. It bothers me and I am not Orthodox, but it so bothers me because I am Jewish,” Simons said.
Rabbi Chaim Abadi, who counsels teens at the Minyan Shelanu, was fined for bringing the bags to the wooded area. He would not comment, but his daughter told CBS 2 he was initially given permission by the township.
The following is how neighbors describe him:
“Abadi’s a great man — always here for the community, always here to help everyone,” said student Yehoshua Lapides.
“The rabbi had some sort of an approval from our Board of Adjustment,” said committee member Meir Lichtenstein.
Other bags are partially buried on property owned by Rabbi Abadi. Simons, meanwhile, said he vows to keep on fighting.
The DEP would not comment Friday.
The rabbi’s daughter said the community of Lakewood brought all the bags to her father initially thinking it was okay. Now, it’s gotten out of hand and she said he doesn’t know what to do.
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