Agudas Israel lawsuit: Stamford Hill housing association for Orthodox Jews accused of discrimination

Mrs Ita Symons from Agudas Housing Association speaks at Hackney Holocaust memorial service at Hackn

Mrs Ita Symons from Agudas Housing Association speaks at Hackney Holocaust memorial service at Hackney Town Hall - Credit: Archant

A housing association that caters only for Orthodox Jews is being taken to the High Court for discrimination.

Two non-Jewish families have brought the case against the Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA), based in Lordship Road, and Hackney Council.

They argue the council’s decision not to allocate them housing in AIHA properties is unfair, and AIHA is discriminating by only allocating housing to members of the Haredi community.

The families were apparently not given the chance to bid on units in the association’s newly completed Aviv development in Stamford Hill.

Ita Symons, who set up the charity in 1981 specifically to provide accommodation for the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, branded the allegation “very cruel”.

She told the Gazette: “I have spent the last 35 years of my life trying to put right something which was wrong, in that there was no affordable housing available for the Orthodox Jewish community.”

She added: “I have spent over 35 years being registered with the housing corporation and doing everything properly and nicely within the rules, and being highly regarded by the housing asssocation movement, only to be alleged that I’m discriminatory and all sorts of nasty things about us.

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“I find that terribly hurtful, when I have worked with my whole heart to relieve the injustices of this society.”

Ms Symons has vowed to fight the case “tooth and nail with all the energy I can muster”.

She said she believes the applicants are “politically motivated and egged on with some left-wing political thinking”.

“Which non-Jewish person honestly speaking wants to live in the midst of a building full of Haredi men with all the beards, and all the chanting on a Friday night and all the children?

“I think they want to make trouble – which they are doing.

“Obviously you are going to give to your own.

“For people who try to say to me it’s not nice I give to my own, my answer is: if everyone was to look after their own community it would be a utopian society. I can’t look after everybody.

“I can only look after the client group which I chose to.”

A spokesman for Hackney Council said in a statement: “The council strongly disputes its allocations arrangements are discriminatory in any way and is vigorously defending the case.”