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Mezuzah Standoff In Ft. Lauderdale

Mezuzah Standoff In Ft. Lauderdale

A mezuzah placed on the door of a condo in South Florida, of all places, is stirring a controversy.

Laurie Richter, a recent law school graduate, attached the mezuzah to the doorpost of her condo apartment in Fort Lauderdale when she moved in on Dec. 1, and the condo board told her recently to take it down. The Port condominium told Richter that the mezuzah violates bylaws that prohibit owners and occupants from attaching, hanging, affixing or displaying anything on the building’s walls, doors, balconies, railings and windows.
That includes mezuzahs, but apparently not a Christmas wreath that was hanging on one condo door until last week, Richter told The Jewish Week.
“It’s a case of selective enforcement or religious discrimination,” said Richter, 28, who describes herself as “an observant Reform person.”

“It’s an obligation” to affix a mezuzah to a Jewish home, she said.
A commercial litigation and securities attorney who works as an associate for a Fort Lauderdale firm, she responded to the condo’s original phone call with a four-page letter that cited “religious and legal principles” for keeping the mezuzah in place.

The condo board told her again to take it down. Richter refused again. She asked for a hearing. The condo board refused her request, she said. “They’re ignoring me.”

Port management did not respond to a request for comment from The Jewish Week.

Fort Lauderdale, which has a Jewish population of 270,000, has not been known as a site of anti-Semitism for “many, many years,” said Eric Stillman, president of the Jewish Federation of Broward County.
Richter said two other Jewish residents of her 129-unit building have mezuzot on their doorposts; one was put up as an act of solidarity with her.

Richter said she won’t remove the mezuzah from her two-bedroom apartment. She won’t comment whether she will pay the $100 a day fine if it is imposed.

The Anti-Defamation League has offered to write a letter on her behalf, and attorneys have offered to defend her pro bono.

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