First Liberty Sues Florida HOA for Discriminating Against Jewish Residents

May 31, 2024
Florida HOA Discrimination | First Liberty Insider

by Mia Gradick • 4 min read

First Liberty and our volunteer attorneys at Jones Day recently filed a federal lawsuit against the Logger’s Run Homeowners Association (HOA) in West Boca Raton, Florida. We’re calling for the HOA to end all illegal, discriminatory and anti-Semitic actions against our clients, Rabbi Naftaly Hertzel and his wife Henya.

The Hertzels have lived under the HOA for 14 years and provide the only religious services for Jewish residents in a six-mile radius. For the Orthodox Jewish community, being able to walk to a synagogue is essential, as their sincerely held beliefs prevent them from driving on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.

That’s why the Hertzels made the effort to establish a permanent synagogue in the neighborhood. The Chabad congregation currently meets in a store-front shopping center nearby as well as in the Hertzels’ home.

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

After the Hertzels presented the proposal to the HOA, the relationship soured. Since then, the HOA has constantly harassed and discriminated 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 board has even said they “didn’t want Jews” in Loggers’ Run and the HOA manager told them that they “should have ended their kind,” meaning the Jewish people, 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.

Members of the Chabad tried 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. As a result, the Hertzels were never able to use the house for religious gatherings and ultimately had to sell the house at a loss.

The HOA has repeatedly singled out the Hertzels for rule enforcement while ignoring violations by other residents. Some of the neighbors host multiple weekly meetings for a Baptist church, including Bible studies twice a week. But the HOA made clear that the Hertzels could not use the new house for those same types of activities. 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 created a hostile environment for Jewish residents living in their community,” said First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys. “Targeting Jewish residents with enforcement while ignoring the same violations by other residents not only violates basic decency, but violates the HOA’s obligations under federal law.”

This kind of brazen discrimination has no place in America. The HOA’s mistreatment is wrong and violates basic decency.

Plus, the HOA is violating its obligations under federal law. Rabbi Hertzel, Henya and their congregation are fully within their legal rights to use their private home and other properties to host religious gatherings and serve their local community.

It’s time for this HOA to stop their brazen harassment. That’s why we’re taking this matter to court.

Rabbi Hertzel, Henya and their congregation need your support. Taking on the HOA won’t be easy, and your gift to First Liberty can make a huge difference in the next phase of this legal battle.

Can our clients count on your support? Will you help us win this case so they can once again be free to worship and live out their faith peacefully?

Please give to First Liberty today.

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