Airmont residents, including some Haredim, complain about illegal yeshiva

Neighbors accused the yeshiva of violating zoning laws and said its leader has been harassing area residents

Entrance to the village of Airmont. Photo: Village of Airmont/Facebook

Mar 6, 2024 12:00 PM


Residents of the Village of Airmont, near Monsey, are accusing local officials of failing to respond to several complaints about a rabbi they say is defying zoning laws by operating a yeshiva and dormitory out of a cluster of single-family houses, multiple news outlets reported.

The yeshiva, which is led by Sephardic rabbi Arash Nissan Hakakian, is said to be occupying a number of houses on Airmont’s Fosse Court. The yeshiva caters specifically to Sephardic students, according to a promotional video featuring Hakakian.

Unusually for a case like this, the complaints have been coming from both Haredi and non-Haredi neighbors. Critics told Lohud and NBC News that they have been harassed by Hakakian’s followers.

“This man is trying to take over a whole neighborhood,” an anonymous source told NBC News. “If we speak out, he sends some of his men to intimidate us, to bully.”

The local advocacy organization CUPON, or Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods, has also criticized the village for failing to enforce zoning codes. CUPON has chapters in many areas that have Haredi communities, and seeks to protect against overdevelopment and other areas of environmental impact, although some Haredi leaders have accused the organization of antisemitism in the past. 

The local building inspector, Louis Zummo, told NBC News that the village zoning enforcement staff has been gutted by Airmont’s board of trustees.

On Monday, Fosse Court neighbor Sharon Stern filed a lawsuit against the yeshiva and village officials, naming Hakakian, Zummo, Airmont Mayor Nathan Bubel, and the village’s board of trustees.