Staten Island, NY - Hoping To Save Sanctuary, SI Synagogue Sues Oorah
Staten Island, NY - A nine year old partnership between a New Jersey based outreach organization and a Staten Island synagogue is headed for the courtroom, one year after a beis din issued a ruling on the matter.
The dispute between the Lakewood-based Oorah and the Young Israel of Eltingville in Staten Island stems from an arrangement made in 2007.
According to court papers, Sid Stadler, acting on behalf of the Young Israel, agreed to give Oorah sole ownership of title and the deed to the property in exchange for $250,000. The arrangement gave the Young Israel the ability to hold services at the synagogue for as long as the shul continued to hold regular minyanim on Shabbos and Jewish holidays, as well as giving the Young Israel access to other areas for certain events.
The Young Israel also agreed to accept Rabbi Chaim Mintz, founder of Oorah and father of the organization’s CEO, Rabbi Eliyahu Mintz, as an arbitrator in any potential problems.
Over the next several years, Oorah made substantial renovations to the property which became home to its Torah Spot Learning Center and the Little Stars Preschool, but in 2013, Oorah decided to convert the synagogue’s sanctuary into a classroom, leaving worshippers relegated to a classroom for religious services, an option that members felt would have been a death blow to the Young Israel.
Hoping to reach a mutually amenable resolution, Stadler and Oorah agreed to go to a beis din which ultimately ruled in Oorah’s favor, saying that the Young Israel owed the organization $1 million.
That judgment prompted the synagogue to file a suit against Oorah in Richmond County State Supreme Court, asking the court to vacate the beis din’s arbitration award. The lawsuit alleged that Stadler was never officially elected president of the synagogue and that even a legally appointed president would not have had the authority to make the agreement with Oorah without the approval of the synagogue’s board of directors.
The lawsuit further charges that the sale of the property was invalid because it lacked the necessary approvals by the attorney general as required by state law in the sale of any real property by a non-profit corporation.
In a VIN News interview, Stadler described the entire chain of events as a “heartbreaking situation.”
Stadler said that dwindling membership and a dire financial situation had him looking for partners to keep the synagogue afloat in 2007. The Young Israel took in a kollel and entered into an arrangement with long time friend, Rabbi Chaim Mintz, the former dean of a Staten Island yeshiva.
“It was the perfect situation,” Stadler told VIN News. “They were bringing unaffiliated people in for the Torah Spot and some live here now and are part of the community. But he decided the building wasn’t enough. He wants to turn the shul, a makom kodesh, into a classroom.”
Stadler, whose name appears on the synagogue’s official stationery as the Young Israel’s president, said he cannot understand what would possess Oorah to close a synagogue that has a minyan every Shabbos and yom tov.
“Jewish blood doesn’t shut down a shul,” said Stadler.
A spokesperson for Oorah declined to publicly comment on the matter.
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