Rabbi Allegedly Resigns From RCA Over Chabad Shul "Stealing" Imbroglio, Leaked Emails Show
"I have decided to withdraw my membership from the RCA and this group. The reasons for my decision are detailed below. I will first write the short reasons. Anyone interested in the full story can read the details which follow the synopsis: 1. Chabad rabbis are members of the RCA. I have decided that I cannot me a member of any group that allows members of Chabad to be members of that group. 2. I did not get any support from the RCA during [the time Chabad was trying to steal the shul]. 3. The notion that politics does not or should not play a role in this Google group is absurd."
The allegedly stolen shul – background here.
What follows are allegedly emails from the Rabbinical Council of America's closed email list. Because of the nature of that list, I can't absolutely verify that they are what they purport to be – although they fit well with what has happened with the RCA in the past.
Chabad has a long, disturbing pattern of taking over synagogues that don't belong to them, acquiring the buildings and assets of these congregations often for pennies, and then very often mortgaging those buildings later to extract their cash value.
Allegedly, what follows is the result of the RCA's refusal to back the shul's actual rabbi against Chabad's attempt to take it over.
I have thought for a long time on what you are about to read. It has taken over five years for me to come to this decision. I have decided to withdraw my membership from the RCA and this group. The reasons for my decision are detailed below. I will first write the short reasons. Anyone interested in the full story can read the details which follow the synopsis:
1. Chabad rabbis are members of the RCA. I have decided that I cannot me a member of any group that allows members of Chabad to be members of that group.
2. I did not get any support from the RCA during this event.
3. The notion that politics does not or should not play a role in this Google group is absurd.
The longer version:
1. Some of you are aware of what Chabad attempted to do to me and my Shul in Syosset, Long Island from 2006 until December 2011. I have since found out that what happened to me is not unique. I have received emails and phone calls from all over the United States because rabbis wanted to know what they could do to prevent the Chabad takeovers of their Shuls. Part of why I am writing this is to warn my colleagues to be vigilant of the attempts of the Chabad and their actions. See also this website for how they do it: www.chabadandstealingshuls.com. For those who aren’t aware and for those who forgot or for those who are just curious, I will try to summarize what happened to me and my Shul during the last five years of its existence.
My father, Rabbi Morris Appleman, a"h established East Nassau Hebrew Congregation, Inc. (“East Nassau”) in 1956 on what used to be a potato farm. He borrowed from his in-laws and parents, raised some money and took out a mortgage to pay for the property and build the Shul. It was the first Orthodox Shul located in North-East Nassau County. It remained so until the late 1970’s when the Young Israel of Plainview was established. Soon after, Rabbi Barish, a”h, established the Plainview Synagogue. After that, Rinat Yisrael was established also in Plainview. By the late 90’s another Synagogue in Plainview was established catering to S’fardim. So during the 1990’s there were five Orthodox Synagogues operating within a one-mile radius of eachother. In our Shul, membership steadily built from the 50’s through the 70’s.
We had 13 Hebrew School classrooms, 1 large Shul, 1 Beis Medresh, 3 catering rooms and a constant stream of Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. As Orthodoxy took root (leading to the other Shuls, a kosher butcher and the establishment of the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County in Plainview), the membership at East Nassau began to dwindle. From over 800 families in the 1970’s there was a steady decline in membership and attendance through the 80’s and the 90’s.
I started working in the Hebrew School when I was eleven, tutoring students in Hebrew reading. By the time I received semichah in 1978, I was working in both the Shul and the catering. At that time, we had tefilah three times a day. Through the 80’s, as less and less people attended, classes were reduced in both the number of classes offered and the number of teachers teaching. We also had to cut back on the minyanim. First we had to stop Minchah, then Maariv and finally Shacharis during the week. We still managed to have minyanim on Shabbos, but towards the end, even that proved to be difficult.
Part of the reason for our ultimate end was the proliferation of so many Orthodox Shuls in the same small area vying for the small number of families. While it was true that we catered to those Jews who were not-yet observant, once they became observant they would walk to Shuls closer to where they lived. We were truly an outreach kind of Shul. However, as we succeeded, we also failed. Just about every time someone in our Shul became shomer Shabbos, they joined a Shul closer to their home.
Around 1995, a Chabad started up in Plainview. I remember thinking at that time that it seemed strange to me. I always thought that Chabad went to far-flung places, like Puerto Rico or Mumbai, to bring Yiddishkeit everywhere. I always admired how young rabbis from Brooklyn could uproot their families and move to places where no one ever heard of the word, “Kosher”. It didn’t occur to me that my father did the same thing many years earlier, just as he was starting a family. When Rabbi Tuvia Teldon moved out to Suffolk County (I think it was the late 1970’s), he stopped by the Shul and we had a nice conversation. I supported him and we were friends. But in 1995, when the Chabad of Oyster Bay started, I just didn’t understand what they were doing in the Plainview neighborhood, since there were already 5 established Orthodox Shuls within a 1 mile radius of each other and each of those Shuls, except for the YI of Plainview, were already having difficulty getting 10 Jews to show up for a minyan. Yet, here they were. I found out later that the purpose of starting another Orthodox Shul in that area was in order to search out which one of the existing struggling Shuls they were going to take over. We were a prime target. And it almost happened.
By the mid-90’s my father became ill and I had already taken up most of the responsibilities of running the Shul. I had been a baal-koray since my Bar Mitzvah; I was teaching full time in the Hebrew School; I was the secretary of the Shul and the main mesadair kiddushin for the caterer. I wrote and published the bulletin and sent out the mailings at the Post Office. As I wrote above, having even a Shabbos minyan by the mid-90’s was difficult. It became much more difficult when the Chabad rabbi tried to steer the few people we had coming to the Shul on Shabbos to his store-front shteeble in a strip-mall. He was successful with at least four families. One individual stopped me in Shul before we began services on a Shabbos morning to tell me this rabbi had asked him to join the Chabad minyan while he was walking on his way to our Shul.
I remarried in January 2002. My new wife and family travelled from Lawrence on the south west shore of LI to Syosset every Shabbos so I could continue trying to keep the Shul going. I returned every Sunday for Hebrew School, which by they was reduced to only one class. This continued for a year and a half. In the spring of 2003, I arranged a meeting with the rabbi of the Chabad of Oyster Bay. My wife was the only other person at that meeting. We discussed his desire to buy the Shul and perhaps my house. He offered less than a tenth of the value of the Shul and offered to put our name up in lights on top of the Shul. We respectfully declined. He also hinted that Purim was coming up and that he was going to rent a place and it was going to cost a lot of money… so I offered him the Shul. He accepted and he had his Chabad people take over the Shul for Purim while the people who were left from my Shul had another minyan in one of the catering rooms. In line with the discussion about Chabad on this forum during the last two weeks, the rabbi of the TOB Chabad did not offer to give a donation to the Shul that so graciously opened its doors to him. (I probably would not have accepted any money from him, but he didn’t even offer.)
As it turned out, I worked with another rabbi to try to build up the Shul. I was able to get a yeshiva (grades 7-12) to rent the building for four years and 11 months. They were supposed to buy the building after the lease was up. A series of unfortunate events prevented them from keeping the school going beyond 3 years, not the least of which was the non-support of whatever Jewish community remained in the area. In 2006, two weeks before school was supposed to begin, I received a call from the rabbi that they were not going to return. The building was in shambles and I was forced to sign a paper that stated that I would not go after them because of the condition.
So I had an empty building, no congregation of regular attendees (beyond the Holidays) to support the building (which cost about $3,000 per month, just for utilities), and very few other options. The Board and I decided that we should find a buyer for the property. We tried the major Jewish universities and organizations. None of them had the money or even the desire to buy the building near market value.
All of a sudden, in September 2006, a lawyer, I’ll call him “Mr. X” said he was interested in buying the Shul for Chabad of Oyster Bay. The price he offered was about a third of the market value and I knew the Court would not agree to such a sale. The combined value at that time of the Shul and the three houses owned by the Shul was about $3.75 million. About ¾ of a million was going to cover any costs the Shul owed, including the lawyer’s fees for the dissolution. The rest was going to go to over 20 mosdos in the NY area, some other areas in the United States and Israel.
Mr. X continued to pressure us to meet with him and the rabbi from Chabad. We refused, since he did not make a viable offer. As time went on, Mr. X threatened to tie us up in court if we didn’t essentially give the Shul and all the properties over to him for Chabad. He went to the Attorney General to complain about me personally and how the Shul was run. I answered the AG that I had no idea who Mr. X was and that he never stepped foot inside the Shul and he had nothing to do with the Shul.
In February 2007, Mr. X started a lawsuit against me for “Preaction Discovery” in order to force me to hand over certain documents (the membership list, the checking accounts, bylaws etc.) so that he would be able to sue me. I had to hire a lawyer to defend myself against this baseless attempt to steal the Shul. That lawyer ended up costing over $50,000. A few days after I was served with those civil papers, I called the “rabbi” at the Town of Oyster Bay Chabad (since his organization was named in the suit as the one that would take over the Shul), and asked him how he could allow this to happen. He told me that he has no control over people who use his name.
A day or two after being served, I contacted the Beth Din of America to find out what I had to do to bring these people who were suing me to B”D. All of this was new to me. They emailed forms for me to fill out. I filled out the forms immediately and the hazmanas were on their way.
From this point on in the story, everything is public record. It’s all available in Mineola at the courthouse. I will try to keep it short, but it will be difficult if the full flavor is to come through.
As the court case dragged on, so did the B”D. During this time, I tried to reopen the Shul. I had services on Shabbosos in February and March of 2007. I brought some of the High School students I was teaching at the time with me to ensure I’d have a minyan. Mr. X imported about 15-20 Chabadniks from Brooklyn to try to take over the Shul with bodies that would outnumber us. It almost came to fights on more than one occasion. It was a disgusting display of disrespect on the part of those Chabadniks. My son, who is also a rav, went to 770 to meet with the mashgiach of some of the young people who attended the Shul to explain what was going on. After three weeks, they stopped coming.
Eventually, in June 2007, the judge found that the plaintiffs, led by the lawyer Mr. X, had no standing. He dismissed the case against me, but in such a way that if they wanted to come after me again, they could. About a week after the judgment, the B”D issued a seruv against one of the people Mr. X. represented. However, since none of the rabbis in the Plainview area wished to enforce the seruv, it had little effect.
After the Yomim Noraim 2007, when I returned to the Shul to conduct services with my sons, it was clear that there was very little support from the community. About 40 people showed up, half of whom felt it was unnecessary to pay for tickets or membership. There was no way I was going to be able to keep the building open. The Board and I had a number of meetings in the Fall and Winter of 2007-08. We found a realtor who was familiar with Not-For-Profit Religious Corporations. He found us a few buyers, none of whom were Jewish. Apparently, the only organizations with enough money to buy property such as ours were either Korean Churches or Islamic Mosques. We went with the Koreans.
As soon as we filed for dissolution in January 2009, Mr. X appeared again. He claimed in court papers that he was a Board Member of East Nassau and that he opposed the sale. By this time, I had to hire another lawyer to defend against this lawsuit. Mr. X and his cohorts submitted false documents to the court along with so many lies in their affidavits that I lost count. I brought all the inconsistencies and lies to the attention of the lawyer we had. He told me it was unnecessary to fight them on those points and that he would make “short shrift” of them through the law. He was wrong.
In the end, the rabbi from TOB Chabad dropped out. But not to worry, another slimy Chabad “rabbi” showed up to gladly take his place in another location in Syosset. Their lawyer knew his way around the court and understood well how to play the courts. They knew they had no case, but that didn’t matter. I had to fire the incompetent lawyer I had and hire another one. He was at a tremendous disadvantage because we did not prove from the beginning that the other side had no basis for their claims – they weren’t members of the Shul and just about anything they said wasn’t true. In November 2011, we had to settle. The false rabbi of the fake shul located in the Syosset industrial park, along with the lawyers Mr. X hired got almost half a million dollars in cash along with two sifrei Torah. They do not have a minyan there. Not on Shabbos and certainly not during the week. The whole thing was a sham in an attempt to get control of the Shul and the real estate that went along with it. The bottom line is that the 20 or so mosdos that would have received about $3 million, will end up receiving less than a million. The lawyers received more than ¾ of a million dollars. The building deteriorated during the litigation so the church paid less. The houses also lost value.
Please go to the website mentioned above to see how Chabad steals Shuls. I just received an email today that Chabad just took over a Shul in Ellenville (that rabbi called me two years ago to talk about how to prevent it, but I already saw it was too late), and they are trying to take over Shuls in Liberty and Fallsburg. This is going on all over the country – indeed, all over the world. Rabbosai, be careful. Do NOT allow your Shul to join in any joint effort with these animals. They are in it for themselves. They are in it for the money. They have terrific PR. Most people have no idea this is what they do. It’s disgusting and must be exposed. Be careful. They are coming to a Shul near you.
2. I went to the Beth Din of America for help. It was like pulling teeth to get them to issue a Seruv. It took almost four months! And in the end, they didn’t specify whether or not it applied to one individual or to all the individuals who were suing me. Additionally, when I came to them to support me against a B”D that Mr. X and his cohorts were trying to get me to go to (I found out that it was a Chabad B”D), the B”D of America did not help.
3. Finally, the third point concerns politics (American, not RCA). I wrote a long factual report of most of the things the Obama administration has done during the first four years. Many questions about loyalty to Israel were included. I sent the report to my personal email list and to this Google group. I was chastised by the people who run this Google group, since one of the rules is that politics is excluded from the discussion here. My feeling is that the politics of this president is very much germane to the existential threats facing Israel from near and far. I feel it’s something that needs to be discussed openly. Where better than this forum? I understand separation of church and state and that this type of discussion can’t take place in any Shul, certainly not from the pulpit. But in this closed forum, I fail to see the downside.
It’s for those reasons that I’m out. I know many of the wonderful rabbis who are members of this group. I’m friends with many of them. I do feel bad that I have to leave. But I can’t stay together with this body since so many members are Chabad. I just can’t see it. Good luck in continuing your avodas HaShem. May you be matzliach ad bias hamashiach, bb”a.
L’cvod Chaveri Harabanim of RCA,
These are the facts, Rabbi A. did sell a Shul to a church instead of allowing it to go to a local shul. (None of the proceeds is going locally not even to the Young Israel)]
There was a siruv on Rabbi A. from the Sphardic Bes Din. The person who took him to Bes Din was from a family that was very active for years at Rabbi A.'s Shul and did not come to my Shul. Rabbi A. already noted in his previous comment that RCA Bes Din said I was innocent, not only that, they wouldn't even send me a Hazmanah, as there was no case.
I did not take him to Bes Din. I did not take him to court. I did not pay for Mr. X legal fees. My Shul did not get a penny of the proceeds.
The thing that I did do was voice my opinion as did the Bais Din “Tzedek U’Mishpat” and allowed my name to be used. I still maintain that to sell it to a Korean Church is very wrong. Especially in such a Jewish neighborhood where right down the block there is Midway Jewish Center a conservative temple that has 1000 members and North Shore- a Reform temple that has almost eight hundred members.
I am very surprised that the forum would allow such emails when not even making a phone call to the other RCA member - me, to at least hear the other side of the story. I did get phone calls of support from other RCA Rabonim and I do appreciate them.
I wish Rabbi A. Hatzlachah Rabbah.
Rabbi Shmuel Lipszyc
Member of RCA, and Rabbi of Chabad of Oyster Bay
As one of the Attorneys involved in this matter, I will set the record straight.
1.) Petitions sent around the neighborhood of Rabbi A’s synagogue, in support of keeping the Synagogue open, were signed by less than ten people. There was no Orthodox Jewish support to maintain the Synagogue.
2.) Requests for funds to maintain the physical structure and operation of the Synagogue were answered with ZERO dollars. Rabbi A was using his own money (on top of not being paid a salary) to maintain the physical plant.
3.) In the settlement, forced upon us by the Court, the local Syosset Chabad received almost $500,000.00 plus two Sifrei Torah. This Chabad “front” operates out of a storefront it shares with a karate school. There has not been a minyan there since the Yamim Noraim. There was no minyan there this entire past summer. So much for the statement that none of the money was dispersed locally and that there is strong support for an Orthodox presence.
4.) The Chabad member of Rabbi L who brought the law suit by claiming that he was a “Board Member” of Rabbi A, was never even a member of Rabbi A and, in fact, had never even set foot in the Synagogue.
5.) The Siruv attained by the people suing Rabbi A was issued after a Siruv had already been issued against them because they refused to appear after being served by Rabbi A with Hazmanot. Rabbi A had no halachik obligation to appear before the Sephardic Beit Din.
6.) The family that was the representative complainant before the Sephardic Beit Din, withdrew after learning the true facts. In fact, they came to the Supreme Court to testify in Rabbi A’s defense and attested to the lies that they had been told by Rabbi L’s member and Attorney in his deposition.
7.) The family that Rabbi “L” stated did not come to his shul, were so generous to him, that, in fact, they donated a Sefer Torah to his Synagogue. I guess he just forgot that fact.
8.) Perhaps Rabbi “L” would like to present the forum with a copy of the RCA Beit Din dcision declaring him to be innocent of all involvement. Because, that never happened.
9.) The people who were put up to sue Rabbi A never gave a penny to support his Synagogue. In fact, the forum should know that the moneys used to build this Synagogue were not public/community funds. The Synagogue was built entirely by Rabbi Morris Appleman and his family. The biggest check to the Synagogue that was produced by these litigants in Discovery was for the purchase of a lulav and esrog set and it was almost twenty years old. The people who came forward to steal the Synagogue “for the Jewish community” never supported its survival themselves. It was an outright geneiva.
10.) I also might point out that Rabbi “L” waited until after Rabbi “A” withdrew from this forum before attacking him.