State stepping in on Shabbat elevator squabble


(JTA) — The state of Maryland has stepped in to deal with a controversy over a Shabbat elevator in a Baltimore condominium.

The Maryland Commission on Human Relations last week ordered the board of directors of the Strathmore Tower in Upper Park Heights, the heart of the Orthodox Jewish community, to rescind an order to remove the Shabbat elevator from the building pending the completion of an investigation, the Baltimore Jewish Times reported.

The building’s board had voted Jan. 19 to remove the elevator’s Shabbat mode software and hardware.

The elevator had been retrofitted as a Shabbat elevator a year ago to accommodate Sabbath-observant residents, and has been a major source of contention between Orthodox Jewish residents and their African-American neighbors for about three years, according to the newspaper. About 75 percent of the building’s residents are Jewish, though most are not Shabbat observant.

A local Jewish philanthropist and an owner of one of the building’s condominiums had agreed to cover the $3,000 expense of retrofitting the elevator when the elevators were renovated last year in the nine-story building.

In 2008, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations issued a report finding “probable cause” that discrimination by the board occurred against the building’s Orthodox residents. 

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