New York, NY – Four state judges based in Brooklyn are expected to decide soon on a dispute over control of a New York empire worth more than half a billion dollars.
The assets at stake include 26 properties in Williamsburg worth $339 million; 329 acres of land in Ulster County worth an estimated $25 million, and 146 acres in Sullivan County worth an estimated $7.3 million.
The dispute has been in the courts since 2001, and involves rival factions that each claim to have elected a president to the corporate board.
The story illuminates the material success achieved in America by the fervently Orthodox Jews of the movement founded by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, a Romanian who arrived penniless in America following the Holocaust.
At first Rabbi Teitelbaum led his followers in prayer in a borrowed room in Brooklyn, an editor of the weekly newspaper Der Yid, Joseph Deutsch, said. But in the last 60 years, the holdings of the Satmar community have multiplied through the dues and donations of members. The general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, Marc Stern, said. “What makes this particularly poignant is the amount of power and control that comes with it as a community that has built itself up from nothing in 60 years into a truly admirable and massive institution.”
The current Satmar leader, Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum, is in his 90s and rarely appears in public. Two of his sons, Rabbi Zalmen Leib Teitelbaum and Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, have followers who back each rabbi’s aspiration to succeed his father. Rabbi Zalmen is the leading rabbi in the Williamsburg congregation, while his older brother, Rabbi Aaron, heads up a congregation in the largely Satmar town of Kiryas Yoel, Monroe, NY in Orange County.
CPA Meyer Zalig Rispler, estimated that the Satmar movement has significantly more than half a billion dollars in real estate across the state. Although the recent appraisal fixed the value of holdings in Williamsburg at $339 million, Mr. Rispler said there are also the summer camps in the Catskills, synagogues and schools in Boro Park, and the holdings of the Kiryas Joel congregation in Orange County, which were not counted in the recent appraisal.