Race questions cloud lawsuit over Jewish cemetery

By DAVE COLLINS | January 6, 2012 | 3:20 PM EST

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A court fight over the burial of a black woman at a Jewish cemetery in Connecticut is escalating with allegations of racism.

Maria Balaban is suing her congregation in Colchester, claiming it broke its rule against burials of non-Jews when it allowed Juliet Steer to be buried in an interfaith section of the cemetery in 2010. She wants Steer's remains exhumed and relocated.

Balaban is white and has plots reserved for herself and her husband at Congregation Ahavath Achim's cemetery.

The congregation's lawyer says the year-old lawsuit is frivolous. He filed a court document last month saying Balaban is suing only because Steer was black.

Balaban says she's been shunned by the congregation. Her lawyer denies she's racist.