NEW YORK (JTA) — Members of a Manhattan synagogue are asking a judge to halt the sale of their building in a deal made without their knowledge.
Worshippers at Sages of Israel, which is also a nursing home, claim that the board selling their Lower East Side Orthodox synagogue building for $13 million to a developer is not legitimate and lacks the authority to conduct such a transaction. They are also questioning the board’s plan to donate $10 million from the sale to the Ger Hasidic sect for a project in Israel.
The deal appears to have been arranged by Rabbi Samuel Aschkenazi, a Ger Hasid who is Sages of Israel’s executive director and also operates a synagogue in Queens. Most of the board members listed on the sales contract live in Queens and do not attend services at Sages of Israel.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court.
“This is a money grab and it’s offensive,” David Jaroslawicz, the attorney representing the members, told the New York Post. “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.”
The members also allege that Aschkenazi diverted funds intended for the synagogue to a yeshiva his granddaughter attended, in lieu of tuition payments, and, without the members’ knowledge, arranged for the synagogue to lease space in his home for $48,000 per year.
The developer seeking to buy the synagogue, Peter Fine, is reportedly a friend of William Rapfogel, the former CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty who is in prison for an embezzlement scheme.