Sunday, December 23, 2007

Earlier Welcomes For Litchfield Rabbi ... & What Might Have Been

"There is no anti-Semitism at Litchfield Ponds and that includes me
[but] at least one person came to me and wanted to know if there was a synagogue
next to my unit."

-- Robert Fisher

Cool Justice
Our Condos, Our Town

Law Tribune Newspapers
January 27, 2003

Imagine a democracy without the Bill of Rights. Among other things, such a place could be a haven for discrimination, favoritism and abuse.

Welcome to the land of condominium associations.

This seemed like such a good deal I thought I would start my own condo association.

Since my condo group is private, I'm throwing out the U.S. Constitution right away. One of my requirements is that every resident place three white Santas on their windowsills and plant three Christmas trees. Neighbors must say "Praise Jesus" upon greeting each other. Violators are subject to fines of $250 a day, which will be enforced by my condo board made up of tough, old, New England Yankees.

Menorahs are not OK, not OK at all. Doesn't matter if courts say they are secular symbols, our bylaws say they are religious icons. And not the kind of religious icons this association agrees with.

I should be able to sit back and relax now. But there have been some whispers from lawyers for the Jews and a few other malcontents talking about diversity, freedom, tolerance and other such nonsense. The courts have even gotten involved.

Think this is outlandish? So do I, but the tragedy is that it's already happened in real life. For example, the New York Court of Appeals ruled last year that a condo resident could put up a sukkah or temporary hut in which certain Jews eat their meals during the fall festival of Succot. The court called the condo association a quasi-government, "a little democratic sub society of necessity."

"Through the exercise of authority, to which would-be apartment owners must generally acquiesce, a governing board may significantly restrict the bundle of rights a property owner normally enjoys," the New York court said. "Moreover the broad powers of a cooperative board hold potential for abuse through arbitrary and malicious decision-making, favoritism, discrimination and the like."

There has been resistance to placing menorahs and sukkahs at other places, including New Haven and Guilford. A resident of New Haven condo has been fined more than $4,000 by his association, and is refusing to pay. His lawyer, David Avigdor, said the case will be interesting when it ends up in court.

I put my condo association in Litchfield, of course, because the town is already hospitable to anti-semitism. When a menorah was put up on the Litchfield town green a few years ago it was vandalized. And, of course, there is a real life condo case there that could result in litigation.

The Litchfield Ponds condo association updated its bylaws to specifically ban menorahs and sukkahs after a rabbi had celebrated holidays in public view. Crosses are out, too, but there were no reports of crosses being displayed. Christmas trees, lights and wreaths are in. "I'm not going to concede that a menorah is a secular symbol," said association President Robert Fisher. "There is no anti-Semitism at Litchfield Ponds and that includes me [but] at least one person came to me and wanted to know if there was a synagogue next to my unit."

That Fisher guy obviously knows how to run "a little democratic sub society of necessity." I'm taking my cues from him. At my condo association, there are no blacks or Jews. But we're not racist, we're just anti-Semitic, and this is our town.

  • First The Verdict, Then The Trial

  • What Might Have Been In Litchfield

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