Jewish family claims antisemitic harassment by HOA in lawsuit: Don’t ‘want Jews’ here

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An Orthodox Jewish rabbi has sued a Florida homeowners association, alleging repeated instances of antisemitic harassment and discrimination. 

Rabbi Naftaly Hertzel, his wife, Henya, and their five children have been residents of Loggers’ Run for 14 years. The father is the president of the Chabad Israeli Center nonprofit and the community’s sole rabbi, with the Hertzels providing the only religious services for Jews within a 6-mile radius. 

According to a lawsuit filed Friday with the help of attorneys from First Liberty Institute and Jones Day, the family lived in Loggers’ Run without incident for four years until the Hertzels approached the HOA board about acquiring land to build a synagogue. 

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The family hoped to provide a larger venue for the local Jewish community to worship. Since the HOA had gifted property to Christian churches or allowed them to purchase land in the past, the Hertzels expected a similar response. 

In 2012, the Hertzels drafted a preliminary design for the synagogue and met with HOA board members who advised the plaintiffs about crafting a proposal. The Hertzels presented another version of the proposal in 2015, following the board members' guidelines for the synagogue. According to the lawsuit, however, the HOA never considered the Hertzels proposal. 

“Instead, the Hertzels’ formal proposal to build a synagogue triggered a decline in their relationship with the HOA that has since devolved into ongoing, open antisemitism and discrimination,” the suit claims. 

Loggers' Run did not respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.

After the HOA refused to consider the proposal, the Hertzels met with the attorney for Loggers’ Run and HOA board members. During the meeting, an attorney allegedly told the Hertzels that they “didn’t want Jews” in their neighborhood. 

Members of the Chabad attempted to run for the HOA board to obtain land for the synagogue. The lawsuit alleges that the HOA board prevented members of the Chabad from campaigning or “seeking election on equal terms.”

In 2019, an anonymous letter delivered to members of the Loggers’ Run community urged them to vote against the Chabad candidates before the list of candidates was publicly announced. During the lead-up to the 2023 election, the HOA's board president reportedly went door-to-door to ask people not to vote for Chabad candidates. The HOA board president also allegedly campaigned on the idea that “the Jews are trying to take over,” according to the suit. 

The Hertzels decided to purchase the Chabad House as a place to worship, and they planned to have an assistant rabbi live in the house to help minister to Jews in the area. A week after the sale, the HOA sent the Hertzels a notice that the house was in violation of the association’s rules regarding paint color and would need to be repainted. 

In their lawsuit, the Hertzels accused the HOA of “selective enforcement of their property,” such as claiming that the driveway in front of the Hertzels’ home was not in compliance with the HOA's rules.

During an argument with a member of the HOA's board of governors about the driveway, the Hertzels claimed that a board member told them that “they should have ended your kind in the 1930s.”

“The HOA’s leadership has engaged in open antisemitism against Rabbi Hertzel and created a hostile environment for Jewish residents living in their community,” Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a statement on Monday.

“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.” 

The lawsuit against the Florida HOA comes amid multiple reports of antisemitic incidents on college campuses throughout the country. In protest of Israel launching a counteroffensive after Hamas' Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, demonstrators set up anti-Israel encampments and demanded their universities divest from the Jewish State. 

Multiple students, particularly Jewish students, have reported that they've felt unsafe due to the encampments or have described situations where they faced harassment. Shabbos Kestenbaum, a graduate student at Harvard University in Massachusetts, described during a congressional hearing last week the antisemitic harassment that he faced on campus. 

Kestenbaum recalled seeing hundreds of Harvard students and faculty setting up an anti-Israel encampment on the first day of Passover and that demonstrators appointed "safety marshals" who would follow Jewish students and record them. 

“I am a Jewish student and have thus far been unable to meet with President Alan Garber or my Dean Marla Frederick to discuss the pervasive antisemitism on campus,” Kestenbaum said. “Only those who call for the ethnic genocide of Jews, violate school policy, and send masked thugs to follow Jews are given the honor of having a seat at the table.” 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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