Chicago Law Inspired By ‘Jewish Star’ Articles May Go State-wide

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

When the Chicago Jewish Star reported last summer that some condominium boards were ordering Jewish residents to remove mezuzahs from their doorpost because of regulations on “decorations,” it touched off an outcry that led to the Chicago City Council last month passing a law against the bans.

Now, that could become the law of the Land of Lincoln.

The Jewish Star reports in its current issue that Illinois state Senator Ira Silverstein, a Chicago Democrat, has introduced legislation amending the state Condominium Property Act to prevent boards from adopting regulations that “prohibit any reasonable accommodation for religious practices, including the attachment of religiously mandated objects to the front doors area of a condominium unit.”

In the article by Associate Editor Gila Wertheimer, Silverstein said he was “appalled” to read in the Jewish Star about the condo board ban on mezuzahs, which are cylinders encasing a small strip of parchment inscribed with verses from Deuteronomy. Observant Jews believe they are commanded by Scripture to place a mezuzah by a doorpost, but it is a practice widely observed even among secular Jews.

“I was at Bagel Country,” Silverstein told the Jewish Star, referring to a restaurant in suburban Skokie. “I read the article, and I couldn’t believe it.” He said his desire to do something about the ban was translated into action when he was contacted by the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League who urged him to write state legislation on the matter.

The original series of articles on the mezuzah ban by Jewish Star Editor Douglas Wertheimer were the subject of an article in the October 2005 print edition of Editor & Publisher.

Silverstein told Gila Wertheimer the bill is only in its first stages, but it certain to pass. “I don’t know who would oppose it,” he said. “It’s ironic and sad that it has to be introduced.”

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