Board members of the historic Lower East Side Bialystoker Synagogue have sued their president, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shlomo Hagler, the New York Post reports, alleging that Hagler is trying to sell an adjacent lot the congregation has owned since 1987, in violation of a Brooklyn rabbinical court’s ruling.
According to the Post, the suit was in response to the decision by leadership of the landmark synagogue—which was built in 1826 and is on the National Register of Historic Places—to sell an adjacent affordable-housing building they owned for a whopping $28 million in January 2013, displacing many longtime Lower East Side residents.
In the suit, Baruch Singer and Lenny Greher claim that Hagler, the synagogue’s rabbi, Zvi Romm, and the chairman of its housing fund are barred from selling the property at 15-17 Bialystoker Place based on an April 2012 ruling by a Brooklyn rabbinical court.
Whether the rabbinical court’s ruling will hold sway in a New York court remains to be seen, as does the implications of the suit for Hagler, a state Supreme Court judge who took the reins of the synagogue when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver resigned in 2010, reportedly over women taking on leadership roles. What is clear, however, is that avarice and infighting threaten the demise of one of New York’s most historically significant Jewish institutions. And that would be the biggest tragedy of all.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.