First Liberty Urges HOA to Stop Discriminating Against Jewish Residents

December 22, 2023
Florida HOA Discriminates Against Jews | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

First Liberty and our volunteer attorneys at Jones Day and Lawson Huck Gonzalez recently sent a letter to the Loggers’ Run Homeowners Association (HOA) in Boca Raton, Florida, calling for it to end all illegal, discriminatory and antisemitic actions against Rabbi Naftaly Hertzel and his wife Henya.

The Hertzels have lived in the HOA for fourteen years and provide the only religious services for orthodox Jews in a six-mile radius. The congregation meets in a store-front shopping center nearby and in the Hertzels’ home. For the orthodox community, walkable proximity to a synagogue is essential, as their sincerely held religious beliefs prevent them from driving to religious services on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. So the Hertzels started efforts toward establishing a permanent synagogue in the neighborhood.

As soon as the HOA learned of their efforts to build a synagogue in 2015, the relationship soured. Since then, the HOA has displayed a long history of harassment and discrimination against the Hertzels and the Chabad community. They’ve been denied the same rights allowed for all residents and groups within the community for several years. The HOA has repeatedly singled out the Hertzels for rule enforcement while ignoring violations by other residents.

The HOA board told the Hertzels on one occasion that they “didn’t want Jews” in Loggers’ Run and the HOA manager told them that they “should have ended them [the Jews]” back in the days of the Nazis. Vandals have knocked down religious symbols, spray-painted buildings, broken windows, flown drones over their home and screamed antisemitic slurs outside while meetings and religious gatherings were being conducted.

In 2017, the Hertzels submitted a proposal to build a synagogue near several churches within the HOA area, clearly within their rights and the local zoning laws. When Henya specifically requested the proposal be considered, board members did not bring the proposal up for a vote or even consider it.

Members of the Chabad then focused their efforts on running for the HOA board as a means of acquiring land for their synagogue. But HOA board members convinced other residents to withdraw their support for the Chabad candidates. The board president at one point used the HOA email list to tell residents not to vote for the Jewish candidates. He even campaigned saying that the “Jews are trying to take over” and to not vote for them. An anonymous letter was also delivered to the HOA community urging voters to oppose the Chabad candidates by name.

Because it was clear the HOA board would not let the orthodox congregation buy or lease land to build a synagogue, the Hertzels purchased a neighboring home in the HOA to use for Chabad events and housing for assistant rabbis. The Hertzels requested permission for various home improvement projects to prepare the property.

But the HOA threated to sue the Hertzels if they used the house for Chabad activities, delayed consideration of the construction requests, and denied the proposed projects. Meanwhile, some of the neighbors host multiple weekly meetings for a Baptist church, including Bible studies twice a week. On virtually every front, the HOA has treated the Hertzels differently and worse than their neighbors, because they are Orthodox Jews.

“The HOA’s leadership has engaged in open antisemitism against Rabbi Hertzel, and is aware of similar ongoing hostile behavior within the HOA community,” First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys said. “This disparate treatment against the Hertzels and their family because of religion is unlawful and enjoys no support from any legitimate, non-discriminatory justification.”

This kind of brazen discrimination has no place in America. The HOA’s mistreatment is wrong and violates basic decency. Its actions also clearly violate the HOA’s obligations under federal law. It’s time for this HOA to stop harassing Rabbi Hertzel, Henya and their congregation. They’re fully within their legal rights to use their private home and other properties to host religious gatherings and serve their local community. They should be able to worship and live out their faith peacefully.

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