The City of Hartford has effectively ended a Connecticut Jewish student center’s legal battle for the full religious use of a former church.

By not contesting within 30 days a Connecticut judge’s determination that the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals acted improperly by refusing Jewish use of a building at 100 Bloomfield Ave., the city has basically capitulated, legal observers say. What it means for Chabad Chevra, which bought the building in 2009 after an extensive search around the University of Hartford, is nothing short of momentous.

“During the past two years, while this case was under appeal, we continued to use the building in a limited fashion for services and Sabbath dinners. Many students were attracted to our programs,” said Rabbi Yosef Kulek, who founded the Chabad Chevra and Rohr Chabad House in 2003 under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Gopin at the Chabad House of Greater Hartford. “Having a permanent address, a landmark, has given us prominence in the community and an established identity on campus.”

Almost immediately following the organization’s purchase of the church property in 2009 – which itself followed an extensive legal review by the church and attorneys working for Chabad Chevra – the city’s zoning board moved to limit Jewish use of the building. Writing last December, Superior Court Judge Maria Araujo Kahn called the action both unfair and illegal.

“The only apparent distinction between the activities of the prior owner and Chabad Chevra is their religion,” wrote Kahn.

Gopin noted that the legal victory was scored on the 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the anniversary of the release from prison of the First Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who had been imprisoned on false charges.

“Thanks to the victory in court, Chabad Chevra is another pillar for Chabad in Connecticut, and a beacon of light in the community,” said the rabbi.