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Syracuse Shul: Young Israel ‘Bullying’ Us
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The National Council of Young Israel has threatened to seize the assets of an Orthodox synagogue in central New York State that resigned two years ago from the Young Israel movement and joined the Orthodox Union network of congregations, the synagogue claims.

According to an e-mail notice sent this week by Beverly Marmor, president of Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse, the Delegates Assembly of the National Council was to vote this week on a motion to expel the congregation, which formerly was known as Young Israel – Shaarei Torah of Syracuse.

The delegates’ meeting was postponed, a source close to the National Council stated. The source declined to comment whether the effort to take over Shaarei Torah’s assets will continue.

The ongoing dispute between the congregation and Young Israel was exacerbated, the synagogue claims, by the National Council’s unwillingness to accept a female president at Shaarei Torah. There has been a female president at the synagogue since 2005.

By expelling Shaarei Torah, whose resignation it does not recognize as legally binding, the National Council, according to its constitution, in effect can take the synagogue’s building and other belongings. “In the event that a branch is dissolved or expelled, all its assets, both personal; and real, shall become property of the Organization [the National Council],” the NCYI constitution states.

No representative of the congregation or the National Council would agree to speak for attribution about this topic to The Jewish Week.

“From June 1984,” when two Orthodox congregations in Syracuse merged, “until August 2008,” when Shaarei Torah left the Young Israel movement, the congregation “received no services in any way from NCYI,” according to a Position Paper issued by Shaarei Torah.

The congregation informed Young Israel by a letter, sent by Federal Express in August 2008, that “the Congregation has elected to resign its membership and affiliation with National Council of Young Israel effective immediately.” In a letter sent to Shaarei Torah a month later by attorney Daniel Kurtz, the synagogue was informed that, “The National Council’s Constitution does not permit a branch, like the Syracuse Branch, merely to ‘resign its membership and affiliation.’ … Any such purported action by the Syracuse Branch, therefore, is rejected by the National Council as a nullity.”

The letter by Kurtz said the National Council had “in recent years … supported the Syracuse Branch while it has experienced financial and congregational problems ... the Synagogue has not been able to pay its required dues for more than 10 years … [Shaarei Torah] has benefited greatly from this association through, among other things, the National Council’s tax exempt status and its internationally recognized name and reputation within the Orthodox Jewish community.”

The source close to Young Israel said the congregation owes about $20,000 in back dues; he did not indicate if the National Council will accept Shaarei Torah’s resignation if the dues are paid.

“Our resignation is fully in accordance with New York State Not-For-Profit Corporation Law,” the Position Paper states. The document claims that the synagogue, since the time it resigned its Young Israel affiliation, is “no longer bound” by the NCYI constitution.

The National Council is “acting like a bully,” a spokesman for Shaarei Torah said. Like many synagogues in the Northeast, Shaarei Torah has experienced a drop in membership during the last generation, he said, from a maximum of 75 to 40-50 today.

The National Council drew criticism in a similar case seven years ago, when, negotiating to sell its six-story building in Lower Manhattan, it tried to evict two small Orthodox congregations based there, including the Young Israel of Fifth Avenue. The dispute was settled in 2005, when a member of Young Israel of Fifth Avenue agreed to buy the building allow the synagogue to remain.

While such disputes happen frequently in the Christian community, there is no known precedent of an extant Jewish congregation in this country becoming the object of, in effect, a hostile takeover by a national group like the National Council, said Marc Stern, counsel and acting executive director of the American Jewish Congress. “Because most shuls are free-standing bodies and their membership in national bodies is loose, it doesn’t happen often.”

Shaarei Torah has gone with public with the controversy, after keeping “a low profile since 2008,” according to the Position Paper, “because of the inevitable chillul hashem [public desecration] that would result from public litigation. Our overwhelming motivation in this whole process is to preserve and promote Orthodox Judaism in Central New York.”




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Last Update:

06/30/2010 - 15:37

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National Council of Young Israel no longer represents the membership of Young Israel synagogues. Today's National Council is not interested in anything but how much they can collect from us without giving anything in return. Sure, they know how to put out press releases. But that's all they seem to do. Most of their programs are begun by others and they just come along afterward and tack on their name. And when they do come up with something like their campaign for Jonathan Pollard, they do it in a way that is to their benefit and not for the recipient. Do they seriously think that writing to Obama is the way to help Pollard? A Federal judge has said a low-key approach of requesting parole without drawing attention would be the best way to obtain Pollard's release. But NCYI is more interested in publicity than in really getting freedom for Pollard.
I hope that NCYI's leadership will deal honorably with Shaarei Torah, and that a solution can be reached that will allow the congregation to continue its vital work.
National Council enforces its rules arbitrarily, hypocritically and discriminatorily. They claim not to have any Women's Tefila Groups but the Young Israel of Scarsdale has. They drove out the rabbi in Richmond, VA immediately simply because he wanted to move the American and Israeli flags out of the sanctuary and into the foyer. But they pretend there is nothing wrong when the rabbi in Las Vegas said on his Valentines Day radio show the best way to get the girl of your dreams is to knock her up! I learned from someone within National Council that Pesach Lerner has had a tape of the show for the last five months! What is the deciding factor for NCYI? Is it how much money a branch delivers to NCYI?
Has Rabbi Lerner ever been in one of his flagship Yong Israels - Young Israel of Flatbush? What goes on there as far as lack of tznius is far worse than a shul having a woman president.
Pesach Lerner needs the money to help his criminal friend Rubashkin as he is collecting money to help him out. Plus Lerner isn;t a big fan of women rights.
I was shocked to see this article and very disappointed in the attitude of the Young Israel movement. I grew up in the shul many many years ago and there was nothing "Young Israel" about it other than the name. I never understood why they chose the affiliation with Young Israel in the early 1950's when they were meeting in the house (which burned down) on Allen street. Those who knew the reason are no longer alive. There first Rav, Rabbi Fink, who they let go because they couldn't afford to pay him in the 1950's was nifter last year. The present rabbi who is younger than I am is quite impressive, despite his youth. I urge Young Israel to leave them alone since they are the only orthodox shul within a 65 miles in what was a thriving Jewish community many years ago.
The goals of YI are particularly disgusting given the approach of Tisha B'Av where we mourn the effects of baseless hatred of Jew against Jew. The members of Shaarei Torah prevented the demise of Orthodoxy in the region and were kind enough to save the rapidly disintegrating Young Israel from disappearing completely. National Young Israel should be thankful that their life was extended as long as it was. Since then,National Young Israel has moved to the right and effectively left the Orthodoxy of Shaarei Torah behind. Women were allowed as presidents when Shaarei Torah joined Young Israel, and the Young Israel constitution still allows this for local synagogues. Were Young Israel to have it's way, G-d forbid, the mikvah, day school, and about to be initiated first time ever Eruv, all strongly supported by Shaarei Torah, would all be in serious jeopardy, let alone the only Orthodox minyon in an 80 mile radius. But what does Young Israel care, we apparently aren't "Jewish" enough for them, at least since 2007 when they took their giant step to the right, and in Rabbi Lerner's eyes, we apparently deserve to have our Judaism stripped away.
Any action taken by National Yong Israel against this synagogue would in effect end the one outpost of orthodoxy in this central New York community. The shul serves the community plus may travelers to and from Toronto who stop in to daven.
Oh, the National Council of Young Israel doesn't want to comment? That didn't stop Rabbi Lerner from issuing some blunt threats last year. Has Rabbi Lerner ever been IN Shaare Torah? It's the only shul with a Mikvah in the area. Their Rov is an amazing dynamic teacher who is totally dedicated to his community. For Rabbi Lerner to threaten this Rabbi is disgusting.

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