Staten Island, NY – Members of a small synagogue on Staten Island are heaving a sigh of relief after a State Supreme Court judge vacated a $1 million arbitration award granted by a beis din that would have forced the congregation to permanently close its doors.
The verdict was handed down last week and found in favor of the Young Israel of Eltingville which sued Oorah last summer as part of a continuing dispute that dates back several years.
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2uKUHZN), the synagogue was financially strapped when it brokered an arrangement in 2007 that deeded the synagogue’s property to Oorah in exchange for a $250,000 payment.
The agreement stipulated that Oorah would allow the Young Israel’s services to continue uninterrupted, but a decision by Oorah six years later to convert the sanctuary into a classroom and move congregants to another room became a point of serious contention.
The two parties agreed to take the matter to a beis din which ruled in favor of Oorah, prompting the synagogue to file suit, asking a secular court to overturn the arbitration award.
The court agreed with lawyers for the synagogue who argued that the broker of the original deal, long time synagogue member Sid Stadler, lacked the authority to negotiate any agreements on behalf of the synagogue without prior approval of the shul’s board of directors.
The decision handed down by the court saves the synagogue from having to forfeit all of its assets in order to pay the $1 million that the beis din had awarded Oorah.
In a VIN News interview, Stadler said that the synagogue has always had a small membership and that it continues to draw congregants for minyanim as it always has, in addition to hosting two kollels and a yeshiva. The idea that the relationship between the Young Israel and Oorah turned adversarial is painful for Stadler.
“No one wanted anything but shalom bayis,” Stadler told VIN News. “But when they wanted to destroy a shul, that was something I couldn’t let them do. It is a real shul and they wanted to invalidate it. I couldn’t let them happen.”
Stadler said he was pleased with the verdict and hopes that it is the final chapter in the long standing dispute.
“We won?” mused Stadler. “What did we win? Thank G-d Hashem saved the place. A shul has kedusha and you just don’t destroy that and make a classroom out of it.”
Oorah was not immediately available for comment on the story.