Jewish Journal

What a Shabbat elevator says about race relations

by Brad A. Greenberg

March 14, 2009 | 6:11 pm

A Shabbat elevator in Israel

An interesting story from Baltimore’s Jewish Times about a condo-community dispute over whether its cost-effective to construct one of two elevators as a Shabbat elevator, which automatically stops on each floor. Seems pretty straight-forward, except for the fact that the folks who don’t want the Shabbat elevator are black and the folks who do want it are Jewish and claiming anti-Semitism is being disguised as fiscal responsibility:

At the same time, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations got involved. Last August, MCHR issued a report in which it found “probable cause” that discrimination by the condo board had occurred against its Orthodox residents.

Last fall, the situation changed. Condo board members serve two-year terms. At the annual election to replace three departing board members, residents who supported the Shabbat elevator were elected. On March 2, the new board voted to retrofit one of the elevators into a Shabbat elevator.

The vote was 5-1 for the elevator, with two members not attending and one member “storming out” before the vote, according to board president Yael Kaner. Mrs. Kaner, a Star K kashrut supervisor and a chef at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center, and her husband, Yosef, who owns a virtual office support company, have lived in Strathmore Tower since 2005.

“Our challenge was to find the silent majority and to encourage them to vote,” Mrs. Kaner said of the board election. While the dispute does not involve all the residents, since the election she said “some African-American [residents] have displayed overt hostility.”

But that’s not how one of the former board members, who is black and a former president of the Baltimore City Teachers Union, sees it.

“If they wanted a Shabbat elevator, they should not have bought here,” Irene Dandridge told the Jewish Times. “It’s not a black-white matter. It’s a matter of not having a few families get their way.”

You can read the whole story here.

(Creator’s note: I saved this blog post Friday, before sundown, and preset it to publish during Shabbat. I will, however, be working much of the day.)

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