It seems to a be recurring set of events in condominiums: A Jewish resident affixes a small, unobtrusive mezuzah to her doorpost. Not long after, she receives a notice from the condo association explaining that no personal objects may be placed in “common areas.” The notice demands that the resident take down the religious object and threatens to impose a fine if she does not. One famous example of such a situation is the Bloch v. Frischholz case in Illinois. Although a few states have enacted laws specifically protecting condo residents’ rights to put up mezuzah’s (see this earlier post), the laws in many other states are not as clear.
The most recent case involves Barbara Cadranel, who currently resides in the California Condominiums in Stratford, Connecticut. After receiving a mezuzah as a gift, she placed it on the doorpost outside of her apartment. Soon after, on several occasions, she would return home to find the mezuzah on the ground. She then received a letter from the condo association demanding that she remove the object or face a fine of $50 per day.
Strangely enough, many of Barbara’s neighbors also have religious objects hanging outside their apartments, such as crosses and Easter decorations. The neighbors, however, claim that the rules allow objects to be hung on doors, but not on doorposts. According to them, if Ms. Cadranel would simply move her mezuzah to the door itself, she would be alright.
What Barbara Cadranel’s neighbors apparently do not know––we will assume due to ignorance––is that the Torah clearly states that a mezuzah must be placed on the doorpost (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20). (See this earlier post for a discussion regarding placing a mezuzah on the inside of the home.) In fact, the Hebrew word “mezuzah” means doorpost.
Interestingly, less than ten years ago, a similar situation arose in nearby Stamford, Connecticut. Similar to this case, Jewish condominium residents received a letter demanding removal of the mezuzah and threatening the imposition of a fine. After the residents filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities, they negotiated a resolution with the condo association. Not only were the allowed to keep their mezuzah, but the condo association agreed to pay them $4,000 to settle the claim. We hope that Ms. Cadranel’s situation is resolved in a similar manner.