A homeowners association (HOA) in Boca Raton, Florida is being accused of discriminating against Jewish residents after it launched a lawsuit against a homeowner for placing a gate on his fence to help observant Jews have a shorter path to synagogue on Shabbat.
From the Avalon development it is a two-mile walk to the Boca Raton West Synagogue. Orthodox Jews have to walk down a highway to reach the synagogue. But recently a resident renovated his fence to include a gate, letting Orthodox Jewish residents use a path through his yard to more easily make it to synagogue, CBS12 reported.
There are over 10 Orthodox families in Avalon who walk to synagogue every Shabbat and on holidays. The gate made it much easier for them.
"We maintain the custom that we don't use vehicles from Friday evening through Saturday evening, it's not really an option, it's just how we live our life," a Jewish resident of the community told the news outlet.
Months later, the HOA sued the homeowner, alleging that the gate was a security risk as it creates another entryway into the community. But some residents disagreed, pointing out that there are homes without fences or with short fences in the neighborhood. Some of the fences also have cracks in them.
Neighbors also noted that the gate is locked when not in use.
“Once we knew this was nothing new to the community other than Orthodox Jews were using it then we knew it was more than just, ‘Oh, you can’t make an adjustment to your property,'” an Avalon resident told the outlet.
Avalon’s HOA by-laws on property changes state: "No improvements shall be constructed, installed, painted, erected, removed, planted or maintained in or on any lot if the same shall be visible outside of that lot."
The Parkview Estates HOA Board, which manages Avalon, met with the ADL after a complaint was filed on Friday. But after the meeting, the ADL chose not to pursue the issue further.