Woman loses court battle with housing association that prioritises Orthodox Jews

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Woman loses court battle with housing association that prioritises Orthodox Jews

Case brought by unnamed mother-of-four claimed that Agudas Israel and Hackney Council unlawfully discriminated against her

Hackney town hall
Hackney town hall

A charity providing accommodation exclusively for Charedi Jews has won a legal battle against a non-Jewish family in Stamford Hill who claimed its ‘Jews only’ criteria was discriminatory.

Lawyers acting for Hackney Council and Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA), which owns the newly-completed Aviv development, defeated an application for a judicial review brought by a mother and her young son in need of housing.

The ruling comes after a Divisional Court hearing in October, with Lord Justice Lindblom and Sir Kenneth Parker determining that AIHA’s arrangements were “justified as proportionate”.

They said: “The disadvantages and needs of the Orthodox Jewish community are many and compelling. They are also in many instances very closely related to the matter of housing accommodation.

“We recognise the needs of other applicants for social housing, but in the particular market conditions… AIHA’s arrangements are proportionate in addressing the needs and disadvantages of the Orthodox Jewish community.”

AIHA was set up by Ita Cymerman-Symons in 1981 and last year she slammed the legal action as a “political stunt,” asking: “Why would any non-Jewish person want to live in Aviv, which is full of Chassidim?”

Ita Cymerman-Symons

The housing association has said there are more than 1,000 Orthodox families on the Aviv waiting list, and this week Cymerman-Symons said the ruling “helps address the imbalance, disadvantages and prejudices faced by Orthodox Jewish families when trying to find suitable accommodation”.

Lawyers said the judges recognised both the specific housing needs of the Orthodox community and also the threat of antisemitism it faced, with Elliot Lister, a partner at law firm Asserson, saying the legal action had alleged discrimination in housing when in fact the AIHA was itself set up as a result of discrimination in housing.

Elliot Lister

“The Orthodox Jewish community’s members’ way of life requires them to live close by each other as a community, to the extent that many prefer to stay in unsuitable properties than to move away from their community,” he said.

Lister said that it was “important the court confirmed that the disadvantages can be legitimately addressed by a charity founded for that purpose, without fear of censure for discrimination,” adding: “For an organisation that was established to counter discrimination and has that as its mission, this is a particularly important judgement.”

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