A lawsuit alleging discrimination by Hackensack’s Ice House skating rink will be decided in New Jersey courts after the Israeli plaintiffs decided last week to withdraw their complaints from the federal courts.
A complaint filed Oct. 21 in the U.S District Court of New Jersey alleges that representatives of the Ice House in Hackensack discriminated against the plaintiffs because of their Israeli nationality and prevented them from participating in the Ice House’s Elite skating program.
Since New Jersey and the United States both have laws dealing with discrimination, the plaintiffs originally filed in both state and federal courts.
The next hearing is scheduled for early January in state Superior Court.
“We’re pleased with the results of the hearing last week,” said Matthew Hawkins, the lawyer representing the Ice House. “We’re optimistic that, given the opportunity, we stand a very strong chance of prevailing.”
Hawkins is a member of Newark-based Herrick, Feinstein LLP.
Galit Chait, a skating coach at the Ice House, alleges that Ice House official Nikolai Morozov told her she could no longer continue working with her two Israeli students, Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky of Garfield. “I don’t want to work under the Israeli flag,” Morozov told Chait, according to the complaint.
Later, the complaint alleges, Morozov told Chait that he would give her a one-year coaching contract at the Ice House if she “got rid of the Israelis.”
When Chait continued to coach the duo, the Ice House’s director of figure skating, Craig Maurizi, allegedly told Chait that she would not be able to coach the Zaretskys at the Ice House.
According to the complaint, Chait continued to coach the Israelis at the Ice House during the summer, but Morozov and Maurizi continued to harass the trio.
On Sept. 4, Chait and the Zaretskys came to the Ice House, and an employee allegedly told Chait that she could not bring the two Israelis onto the ice.
The Ice House alleges that there is not sufficient ice time available to accommodate the Zaretskys.
“The simple response is, we take issue with the assertions in the complaint,” said Hawkins. “The Ice House does not discriminate against any national origin, religion, or [anything of] the sort. Given the opportunity to look into these allegations, we hope the court will see things our way and we can end the case pretty quickly.”
Arthur Grossman, who is representing the plaintiffs with David Ward, would not comment on the pending case. Grossman and Ward both work for Mandelbaum, Salsburg, Gold, Lazris & Discenza, P.C. of West Orange.
Chait was born in Israel and moved to New Jersey in the 1970s. She maintains Israeli citizenship. She skated for the Israeli Skating Federation from 1994 until 2006 and participated in three Winter Olympics under the Israeli flag. During the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, Chait was a flag-bearer for Israel.
Chait began coaching at the Ice House in June 2007 with Morozov, one of her former coaches. She worked with the Ice House’s Elite program for world-class skaters, spending much of her time with teams from Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Japan.
In September 2007, the Zaretskys, who are Israeli citizens and New Jersey residents, asked Chait to coach them. According to the complaint, Chait asked Morozov if the pair could join the Elite program, and he initially agreed.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, including legal fees, and requests that the Israelis be permitted to train at the Ice House without harassment.