YESHIVA College principal Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman and her son Rabbi Yossi Feldman have started legal proceedings against the owners of land on which Kesser Torah College (KTC) is built. According to the Feldmans’ lawyer, David Austin, the parties will appear in the Supreme Court of NSW today (Friday) in relation to a $530,000 tax bill, which is outstanding since 2003. In an unrelated case, Yeshiva College is being investigated by the government on suspicion it misused a $400,000 grant.
School at centre of tax row
Australian Jewish News
YESHIVA College principal Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman and her son Rabbi Yossi Feldman have started legal proceedings against the owners of land on which Kesser Torah College (KTC) is built.
According to the Feldmans’ lawyer, David Austin, the parties will appear in the Supreme Court of NSW tomorrow (Friday) in relation to a $530,000 tax bill, which is outstanding since 2003.
“Pnina and Yossi decided they had to litigate in order to get the tax debt paid,” Austin told The AJN.
Liable for the tax bill are six people – Rabbi Yaakov Lieder, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, Rebbetzin Feldman, Rabbi Feldman, Yitzchok Barber and Henry Kinstlinger – who were the directors of Yeshiva College in 2003.
The AJN understands that when Yeshiva College’s property in Dover Heights, now the site of fellow Orthodox Jewish school KTC, was sold to Blake Napier Ltd in 2003, part of the agreement included Blake Napier Limited paying the outstanding tax bill.
However, it is believed there was a condition that Rabbi Pinchus Feldman not set up a new Jewish school, in a bid to give KTC a chance to grow.
The AJN understands the dispute revolves around the establishment of Yeshiva College, Bondi, which was registered in 2007, but operated unofficially before that. Blake Napier Ltd is expected to argue this breached the original agreement, however, the Feldmans’ lawyer claimed it does not void the obligation of Blake Napier Ltd to pay the half-a-million dollar bill.
Claiming that she felt Blake Napier Ltd had not kept its end of the deal, Rebbetzin Feldman added, “I’m hoping justice will prevail and Hashem will prevail and the property will be returned to us.”
The directors of Blake Napier Ltd – Ian Levi, Carl Reid, Meir Moss, Rabbi Elozer Gestetner and Rabbi Samuel Gurewicz – said they will defend the charges.
“You will appreciate that while this matter is before the courts, it is inappropriate to comment about the proceedings beyond an indication that the matter against Blake Napier Limited will be vigorously defended,” Levi said.
Government investigating Yeshiva funds
JOSHUA LEVI • Australian Jewish News
YESHIVA College has refused a request by the Education Department to return $400,000 in Government funds.
The Bondi Orthodox school was awarded $925,000 by the Federal Government under the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program. That money came with a caveat that it must be used within a specified time frame.
The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AIS) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) are now investigating whether the $400,000 already given to the school has been spent, and if so, on what.
While DEEWR has not confirmed it has asked for a refund, college principal Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman said she was not able to give the money back, even though Yeshiva has not built what it had planned to. An electricity company’s plans to build a facility close to the campus left the school¹s building intentions up in the air.
“EnergyAustralia is building a substation within 200 metres of the school, which is considered dangerous, so we can’t build what we were going to because it would be dangerous for the kids,” Rebbetzin Feldman said.
“I went to AIS and asked if we could use the money for something else, but they said no because they said the money was a stimulus for builders, not schools, so there is no point spending the money elsewhere in 2011. They said we had to give the money back or use it on that building, but I don’t want to give the money back because I have already spent a lot of it and if we have to move because of the substation, we need money to relocate.”
AIS executive director Geoff Newcombe said the investigation into Yeshiva is ongoing.
“The matter is in the process of being handed over to DEEWR for further investigation, and we will continue working with the department to assist them in their inquiries,” he told The AJN.
AIS administers the grants on behalf of the Education Department to private schools in the state. Newcomb could not comment further on the specific investigation, but he did explain the circumstances under which a case could be handed over to DEEWR.
“If we conclude that the school is not satisfactorily carrying out all requirements of the agreement, we have the option of terminating the agreement we have with the school and notifying DEEWR, so that they can investigate further as they are the owner of the funds.”
A DEEWR spokesperson confirmed the investigation is currently underway. “The department is currently investigating the use of BER funding by the school, and is working closely with the Association of Independent Schools NSW to ensure it has been appropriately spent,” the spokesperson said.