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Chabad messianists lose court ruling

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The leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch has won the right to eject a messianist congregation from the movement’s main synagogue.

New York State’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and Agudas Chassidei Chabad, two of Chabad’s three main bodies, giving them the right to eject Congregation Lubavitch Inc. from the synagogue located in the basement of 770 and 784-788 Eastern Parkway, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. The sites represent the worldwide headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch.

Although the defendants have the right to appeal within 60 days, the ruling gives legal backing to the 15-year struggle to stifle the movement’s messianist wing.

The suit involves a conflict that began in 2004, when Merkos and Agudas sued individuals connected with the messianist congregation for defacing a plaque Merkos installed outside the synagogue that used the term “of blessed memory” to refer to the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Chasidic movement’s longtime rebbe. The phrase offeneded those associated with Congregation Lubavitch Inc. who believe that Schneerson was the messiah, and thus is not technically dead.

In that first case, the court ruled in favor of Chabad’s leadership, declaring in June 2006 that Merkos and Agudas are the rightful owners of the entire property. The current suit was brought by Merkos and Agudas in order to give them the authority to physically remove the opposing congregation, and its four gabbais, or trustees, from the premises.

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