The Blochs have lived in the Shoreline Towers condominium in Chicago for three decades. In May 2004, the condo association began a hallway renovation and asked residents to remove everything from their doors, including mezuzot (the plural of mezuzah). The Blochs took the mezuzot down from their three apartments, then replaced them when the renovations were complete. But the condo management removed them, and did so repeatedly so when the Blochs put them up again — even on the day of the funeral of the family patriarch, Marvin Bloch. The family sued the condo association in 2005.
The City of Chicago has since banned condo restrictions on doorway religious symbols, as did the state legislature; the condo board has changed its policy. But the Blochs continued their lawsuit, pressing for damages over their treatment.
A lower court, followed by a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit, blocked the trial last year, but in a highly unusual move, the full court agreed to rehear the case and last week overruled the earlier decision.
A lawyer for the condo complex, David C. Hartwell, noted that the Seventh Circuit relied on an account provided entirely by the plaintiffs for the purpose of deciding if their claims were enough to merit a trial. Now that the case is moving forward, more details will emerge, and “people are going to be somewhat shocked and amazed,” he said.
He insisted that the dispute is about condo board politics, not anti-Semitism. “This case is really about intense discord” between Mrs. Bloch and the board president, he said.
A lawyer for the Blochs, Gary Feinerman, said the facts at trial would vindicate his clients. While not conceding that an anti-Semitic worldview is at issue in the case, he said that even if the actions of the board president were based in personal animus, the president wanted to harm the family, and “he got at them in a way that was intentional religious discrimination.”