Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
By Joe Kollin
Published February 3, 2007
· Laurie Richter says Jewish law requires her to attach a mezuzah to her
But the board that runs The Port condominium, in the 1800 block of
Southeast 17th Street, says displaying the 5-inch-long case with a
religious message inside violates the condo documents and has ordered it
Because wreaths were allowed on doors during Christmas, Richter accuses
her board of discrimination.
"I don't want to be causing any rifts here so Christians can't hang
wreaths, but it seems the rights of Jewish people are being violated
because Christians don't have to hang wreaths but we have to hang
mezuzahs," she said.
The association that runs the 16-story, 129-unit condo cites the bylaws
that prohibit owners and occupants from attaching, hanging, affixing or
displaying anything on the exterior walls, doors, balconies, railings and
windows of the building.
Neither the association's president, Ronni L. Rosenberg, nor its community
association manager, Marcy L. Kravit, could be reached for comment despite
several attempts by phone.
Richter, 28, an attorney, moved into the two-bedroom apartment as a
renteron Dec. 1. She put up the mezuzah using double-sided tape to avoid
permanent damage to the building, she said, but was immediately told to
"I really didn't think that kind of thing happens anymore," she
said. "To treat people different like that should not be tolerated.''
She has demanded the Anti-Defamation League take action, but Art
Teitelbaum, its Miami-based southern area director, suggested the two
sides work together.
"It's clear from daily experience in Broward County condos that this
is an issue that is resolvable without causing bruised feelings or any
diminishing of the quality of life in condos," he said.
To impose a fine, which most likely would be on the apartment owner rather
than Richter, the board must provide 14 days notice of a hearing,
according to the bylaws. Then a committee of non-directors would hear the
case and decide in 21days.
If a fine were imposed, the maximum would be $100 a day, up to $1,000.
Fines can't become liens, so the only way for the board to force
collection would be a lawsuit.
The unit's owner, Richard J. Scrabis, an attorney who lives elsewhere in
Fort Lauderdale, said he doesn't know yet what he will do and hadn't
discussed the issue with Richter.
"If they fine me, I'll have to look to her for payment," said
Scrabis, who bought the unit in July 2005.
Condo legal expert Gary Poliakoff, whose law firm represents 4,200
associations in Florida, said 99 percent of associations allow mezuzahs or
"make accommodations in an effort to be tolerant."
But associations that allow them, he said, must accommodate other
religions as well.
Ira Sheskin, a University of Miami demographer who tracks the Jewish
population, said a recent poll found that 79 percent of respondents in
Broward have mezuzahs on their front doors, 87 percent have them in
southern Palm Beach County, 83 percent in West Palm Beach and 82 percent
Richter said she has been in contact with the manager and president to
seek a resolution.
But would she pay a fine if it comes to that?
"I'll cross that bridge when we get there," she said.