California gov. passes 'mezuzah bill'

The bill is a watershed moment in supporting Jews who wish to practice their faith openly and safely, and protects Jews from any discriminatory property laws.

By
September 14, 2019 17:37
1 minute read.
A mezuzah

A mezuzah. (photo credit: PIXABAY)

Despite the worrying rise in antisemitism across the world, Californian Jews are able to live more freely and openly with the passing of the "Mezuzah Bill."

Authored by California State Sen. Ben Allen (D-26th district), the bill is a watershed moment in supporting Jews who wish to practice their faith openly and safely, and protects Jews from any discriminatory property laws.

A preexisting legislation, the Equal Housing Act, already provides significant protection against discriminatory practices in real estate sales and rentals. However, it hasn't offered adequate protection for Jews wishing to display an important symbol of their religion, particularly with homeowner association laws being used as an pretext to restrict mezuzahs.

A mezuzah is a portion from the Torah written by hand and put into a decorative container, which is placed outside the door of the residence of a Jewish person. The verses written there are Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.  

To many Jews, the rise in antisemitism has made mezuzahs a symbolic form of defiance against hostility, since they are one of the most identifiable symbols of Judaism, literally marking a building or apartment as a place for Jews. In fact, many activists have begun encouraging Jews to be more open with their observance and practices, rather than be intimidated.

Support for the bill in the state legislature wasn't hindered by party lines, and it passed all necessary readings before being signed by the governor without a single vote of dissent. In addition, it also received support from the Anti-Defamation League.

“Posting a mezuzah is not a decorative choice for Jews," said Nancy Appel, ADL’s legislative director for California. Rather, an observant Jewish person would be unable to live in a home where placement of a mezuzah on an entry door frame is not allowed.

"Although ADL has successfully advocated for affected Jews to enable them to post their mezuzahs on a case-by-case basis, this bill guarantees that they won’t have to face this impossible dilemma in the first place.”

In honor of the bill's passing, the Legislative Jewish Caucus celebrated, putting up mezuzahs on their office doors.


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