Mezuzah personally offends condo community, apparently4:36 pm - 04/19/2012
Barbara Cadranel says she's lived all over the world, but decided to settle near friends in Stratford in October 2010.
When she received a mezuza as a gift in the fall of 2011, she put it on the doorpost of the front door of her third-floor condominium unit on California Street, affixing it with Velcro. It was a religious rite that Cadranel, 60, learned in Hebrew school.
It is now a source of controversy. Cadranel is being fined $50 a day by her condo association for hanging the glass mezuza on her doorpost, although she has refused to pay anything so far. She is threatening to take legal action against her condo association and has gained the support of the Anti-Defamation League.
Sitting at her dining room table before a bank of television cameras Wednesday, Cadranel said, "I'm not really happy sitting here because I'm feeling hurt basically. This is not fun."
A professional musician, Cadranel said she was "shocked" and "outraged" when she was told to remove the mezuza.
"I was violated," she said. "I'm bullied and I'm saddened. It's changed my whole existence here."
A "Happy Easter" wreath with a bunny on it hangs on the door across the hall from hers. She says she's cordial to all in her building, but some neighbors just stare at her without speaking.
The California Condo Association allows unit owners to display religious items on the outside of doors, but not on their doorposts, the frame around the door.
The Connecticut branch of the Anti-Defamation League says that such a bylaw is an attack against the Jewish faith.
Placing a mezuza — a piece of parchment, often in a decorative case, inscribed with verses from the Torah — on a doorpost is an observance of Jewish religious law, said attorney Alyza D. Lewin of Lewin & Lewin, who is representing Cadranel.
In a letter to condo association President Irene Stern, dated March 13, theWashington, D.C.-based law firm threatens to take legal action if the fines continue, claiming that the association's board of directors is violating the federal Fair Housing Act in prohibiting a religious decoration.
The association's lawyer, however, argued that Cadranel was well aware of the bylaws when she purchased the unit on Aug. 31, 2010.
"The declaration expressly prohibits unit owners from hanging or displaying anything on the outside windows or outside walls of any building, and also prohibits any sign from being affixed to or placed upon the exterior walls … without prior consent of the association's board of directors," the lawyer, Kurt M. Ahlberg, said in a response dated March 21.
In the past, other condo owners have gained permission to affix "any such artifact to their door," Ahlberg wrote.
But Cadranel says she hasn't asked permission because there's no rule saying that she must.
"There's nothing in the documents you have to ask permission," she said, "It tells you what you cannot do, and so you don't."
A neighbor, Gilly DaSilva, said he thought the prohibition had something to do with the fire code. But he said he had no objection to the Jewish item.
"As long as they don't have the devil, I don't care," he said.
The Anti-Defamation League is urging the board of directors to let Cadranel keep the mezuza on her doorpost.
"A mezuza is not a decorative choice for Jews, or a choice of any kind. Requiring its removal is tantamount to requiring a Jewish person to move," said Gary Jones, the league's Connecticut regional director.
Cadranel's attorneys said on Tuesday that they also plan to file a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
She says she's so intimidated that she doesn't go downstairs to get her mail when most everyone else does.
"They're trying to get me to move," she said, "This is my home. This is my first home. I don't want to live in my home being bullied."
After being questioned a few times about whether she plans to move, she said she's determined to stay.
"Why am I going?" she asked.
This really, really pisses me off, for a myriad of reasons. People not taking ownership of their anti-Semitism, check. Stupid fucking HOA drones and their "laws", check. Mean neighbors, check. I plan to follow this case for as long as it goes.