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Religious Discrimination in Mezuzah Case

 
 
Miller
 
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 12:41 pm
Chicago, IL - Court: There Is Enough Evidence of Religious Discrimination in 'Mezuzah Case'
Published on: November 13th, 2009 at 01:22 PM
News Source: Chicago Sun Times

Chicago, IL - A federal appellate court today revived a Jewish family’s lawsuit against a Chicago condominium association that repeatedly removed a mezuzah from the family’s doorpost.

Some observant Jewish families believe they must pay respect to the small symbol upon entering their home.

The ruling vindicates federal appellate Judge Diane Wood, a former colleague of President Obama who has been on his shortlist for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though criticized by conservatives as “hostile to religious rights,” it was Wood’s impassioned dissent in this case that the appellate court relied on to revive the Bloch family’s claim of religious discrimination.

Wood’s reknowned conservative colleagues on the Chicago-based Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals " Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook " had earlier voted 2-1, prevailing over Wood on a three-judge panel, to dismiss the claim, arguing, among other reasons, that the federal Fair Housing Act, under which the lawsuit was brought, cannot be used to allege discrimination after a condominium is sold.

Today’s ruling by eight of the court’s judges reversed that finding and said the FHA can apply to alleged discrimination after a sale.

The court did not rule that The Shoreline Towers Condominium Association and its president, Edward Frischholz discriminated against the Bloch family, but the court said the Blochs offered enough evidence that a jury ought to be able to hear the case.

“Frischholz knew that Lynne Bloch would be offended by removing mezuzot from her doorposts. Still, he approved of their repeated removal,” Judge John Tinder wrote. “When she confronted him about it, he retaliated. He accused Lynne of being a racist, called her a liar, encouraged other tenants not to elect her to the Board, and told her that if she didn’t like the Association’s taking down her mezuzot, she should “get out.”

Frischholz admitted an a deposition that he scheduled board meetings on Friday nights when he knew Bloch would not be able to attend for religious reasons.

“It is fair to infer that Frischholz scheduled the meetings on Friday nights with Judaism in mind,” Tinder wrote.

But “the strongest evidence of anti-Semitic motives” Tinder wrote was that “the defendants waited until the family literally was attending Dr. Bloch’s funeral and then removed the mezuzot while everyone was away,” Tinder wrote, quoting Woods’ dissent.

A coat rack and a were left in the hallway even though the Mezuzah was taken down. That seems to argue against the condominium’s argument that the no-decorations rule was religiously neutral, applying to Chicago Bears penants as much as Mezuzah, Tinder wrote.

The case now goes back to trial.

“So the Blochs must proceed on a showing of intentional discrimination,” Tinder wrote. “Although the Blochs’ case is no slam dunk, we think the record contains sufficient evidence, with reasonable inferences drawn in the Blochs’ favor, that there are genuine issues for trial on intentional discrimination.”

Wood taught with Obama at the University of Chicago Law School and was one of three judges he invited to the White House for interviews before settling on Judge Sonia Sotomayor for his first Supreme Court pick.

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Type: Discussion • Score: 7 • Views: 2,490 • Replies: 16

 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 12:59 pm
November 21, 2009
Fight Over Jewish Symbol Heads to Trial
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

The case of the missing mezuzah will go to trial.

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, ruled that a case may go forward involving a family’s fight to affix a small box containing Hebrew religious texts, known as a mezuzah, to the doorposts of their condominium units. The mezuzah has deep importance for many Jews as a sign of faith, but for the family of Lynne Bloch, it is also a symbol of battle.

The Blochs have lived in the Shoreline Towers condominium in Chicago for three decades. In May 2004, the condo association began a hallway renovation and asked residents to remove everything from their doors, including mezuzot (the plural of mezuzah). The Blochs took the mezuzot down from their three apartments, then replaced them when the renovations were complete. But the condo management removed them, and did so repeatedly so when the Blochs put them up again " even on the day of the funeral of the family patriarch, Marvin Bloch. The family sued the condo association in 2005.

The City of Chicago has since banned condo restrictions on doorway religious symbols, as did the state legislature; the condo board has changed its policy. But the Blochs continued their lawsuit, pressing for damages over their treatment.

A lower court, followed by a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit, blocked the trial last year, but in a highly unusual move, the full court agreed to rehear the case and last week overruled the earlier decision.

A lawyer for the condo complex, David C. Hartwell, noted that the Seventh Circuit relied on an account provided entirely by the plaintiffs for the purpose of deciding if their claims were enough to merit a trial. Now that the case is moving forward, more details will emerge, and “people are going to be somewhat shocked and amazed,” he said.

He insisted that the dispute is about condo board politics, not anti-Semitism. “This case is really about intense discord” between Mrs. Bloch and the board president, he said.

A lawyer for the Blochs, Gary Feinerman, said the facts at trial would vindicate his clients. While not conceding that an anti-Semitic worldview is at issue in the case, he said that even if the actions of the board president were based in personal animus, the president wanted to harm the family, and “he got at them in a way that was intentional religious discrimination.”

Betsy Shuman-Moore, the director of the fair housing project for the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the case was about more than the Blochs. “It’s big,” she said, because it says discrimination is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act “after tenants and owners move into their homes,” and not only before. The decision, she said, could be applied to many forms of discrimination, including those involving race, sex and children.

Helen Bloch, Ms. Bloch’s daughter, said, “Hopefully, nobody else will have to suffer the way we’ve suffered” " and added, “There’s a lot of meaning in that box.

NYTimes 11/21/09
MontereyJack
 
  3  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 01:08 pm
Shame on the Chicago Sun Times. It's "renowned
, not "reknowned". What the hell are they teaching them in Chicago?
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 01:59 pm
@Miller,
http://www.lplegal.com/hsd_mezuzah/

Here's a good history of the whole affair.
0 Replies
 
Philis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 01:20 am
Really Rolling Eyes
I prefer live and let live myself.
This action Screams of anti-semitism Shocked
0 Replies
 
Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 01:32 am
I looked them up. They're tiny. I don't see how they would offend anyone. Most people would miss them if you passed by. Much ado about nothing, me thinks.
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 06:57 am
The Blochs have lived inthe condos for 30+ years and there were no problems about being Jewish and displaying that fact.

Now, all of a sudden, trouble, lawyers, court, and money...

Why?
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 09:27 am
@Miller,
Interesting read. Thanks for posting it.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 09:34 am
@Miller,
Here's why...

Quote:
The Blochs have lived in the Shoreline Towers condominium in Chicago for three decades. In May 2004, the condo association began a hallway renovation and asked residents to remove everything from their doors, including mezuzot (the plural of mezuzah). The Blochs took the mezuzot down from their three apartments, then replaced them when the renovations were complete. But the condo management removed them, and did so repeatedly so when the Blochs put them up again " even on the day of the funeral of the family patriarch, Marvin Bloch. The family sued the condo association in 2005.


It didn't become an issue until 2004, the suit was initiated in 2005 after repeated interference by the condo association. No, "all of a sudden" about it.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 09:36 am
I'd be curious to hear joe's take on the idea that the association board president's actions are an action of the board and not the individual. I imagine association board meeting minutes would have to show that the pres was acting on behalf of the board and not in opposition to them.
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 12:04 pm
@JPB,
JPB wrote:

The Blochs took the mezuzot down from their three apartments, then replaced them when the renovations were complete. But the condo management removed them, and did so repeatedly...


What does "management" have to say about this? Condo Management is separate and distinct from the Condo Board.

Additionally, what do the rules and regulations of the Condo Association say about attachment of articles of faith to one's door post?
0 Replies
 
Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 12:18 pm
@Ceili,
Ceili wrote:

Much ado about nothing, me thinks.


Or taking up expensive court time for worthless crap.
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  2  
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 12:25 pm
@Ceili,
Ceili wrote:

I looked them up. They're tiny. ... Most people would miss them if you passed by.


They're not tiny and the only folks who would miss them are blind.
Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 12:58 pm
@Miller,
From what I saw on Google, they're about 4 inches long, on inch wide. That's not huge. It's not like it's a Christmas wreath. It's not aesthetically unpleasing. It seem people (not the Jewish family) have got their panties in a knot for a wee little thing. Odd.
0 Replies
 
MontereyJack
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 02:13 pm
ceili's right--they're small and generally inconspicuous. I dated an observant Jewish woman, and I was, to be sure, paying more attention to her than to her doorpost, but I was at her apartment three or four times before I noticed she had one on her outside door. They're a reminder of faith, not an object of display.
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 08:55 am
@MontereyJack,
Moses Maimonides wrote "By the commandmaent of the mezuzah, one is reminded of the unity of God and is aroused to love Him...This thought will make him mindful that he must walk in the path of righteousness."

The mezuzah ( literally, "doorpost")consists of a peice of parchment inserted into a small receptable. This is affixed to the right doorpost ( as you enter ).

Two passages from the Book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 6, verses 4-9 and chapter 11, verses 13-21) are inscribed upon the parchment and explain the rational for the mezuzah.

(Ref: The Jewsih Home Advisor.)

My mezuzah is about 3-4 inches long and is easily observable ( as it should be ).
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 09:21 am
@JPB,
JPB wrote:

I'd be curious to hear joe's take on the idea that the association board president's actions are an action of the board and not the individual. I imagine association board meeting minutes would have to show that the pres was acting on behalf of the board and not in opposition to them.

It all depends on whether the board president was acting in his official capacity or not. That may or may not be reflected in some official board resolution -- condo associations aren't always very good about maintaining records or following all the formalities required by the law. The guy could have been enforcing a board policy, or he could have just been a jerk. Ultimately, whether the guy was acting in his official capacity is a question that can't be answered based on the limited information available in the story.

I'll also note, as the story mentioned, that the Illinois general assembly passed a law that prohibits condo associations from removing religious symbols:

Quote:


I don't know when that particular section was passed. From the story, it seems as if the legislature passed it in response to cases like that one. Had the law been in effect when the actions of the condo president took place, this lawsuit probably wouldn't have ended up in federal court.
0 Replies
 
 

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