Sunday, April 19, 2015

Suit Filed Over Sale of Lower East Side Synagogue To Developer

The New York Post reported on April 10 that congregants at the Home of the Sages synagogue of the Ger Hasidic sect on New York City's Lower East Side are suing to invalidate the $13 million sale of their building to developer Peter Fine.  $10 million from the sale will be used to build a Ger synagogue in Israel, while the other $3 million will go to the synagogue's president, Rabbi Samuel Ashkenazi. The April 16 Jewish Business News has more on the story:
[S]ince the synagogue is a non-profit a court must sign off its sale. The sale price is well below market value for the area which set off a lot of red flags.... The synagogue allegedly had a member meeting to pass this deal — even though the ‘members’ were people from Queens who had never stepped foot in the synagogue to worship there.”...
Now here’s where things get complicated. Rabbi Ashkenazi has also been accused by ... [the congregants' lawyer] of using funds from the sale to in effect pay himself $45,000 a year to lease space in his Queens home to the congregation. Apparently, Ashkenazi’s wife was the one who signed the new lease with the synagogue.
In another strange twist the judge, Arthur Engoron, who was set to preside over the preliminary court hearing in New York yesterday, recused himself from the case without saying why.