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October 28, 2021 1:32 pm
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Investigator Says Maine Homeowners Wrongly Evicted Black Jewish Tenant After He Refused to Remove Mezuzah

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A mezuzah. Photo: Noam Chen/Israeli Ministry of Tourism/Flickr

A pair of Maine homeowners discriminated against one of their tenants because he was a Jewish man, a state investigator has found.

Local NBC affiliate News Center Maine reported Thursday that the investigator recommended to the Maine Human Rights Commission that it rule Mark and Michelle Fortin evicted the man based on his religion after he placed a mezuzah on his door.

The man, who was not identified, is also Black.

He was a tenant of the Fortins’ since June 2020, and placed the mezuzah in Feb. 2021. Two months later, he was told to remove it.

The tenant refused, citing the Jewish stricture to affix the ritual scroll to his doorpost. The Fortins then terminated his lease, and asked the police to monitor him during a final walkthrough of his apartment.

The Fortins acknowledged that the mezuzah was the reason for the eviction, saying it constituted a violation of the lease. But they also claimed that the tenant had kept a trailer on the property that was not removed as promised.

When the trailer was removed, they said, the removal caused property damage.

Regarding these claims, the investigator found that the tenant had not been told to remove the trailer until after his lease was terminated, and that his offer to fix the damage for free was turned down.

The Maine Human Rights Commission will consider the recommendation at a Nov. 8 meeting.

Michelle Fortin denied to News Center Maine that any eviction had occurred at all.

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