Boro Park: In New Sefer HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shternbuch Condemns “Turn-the-Shul-Into-Condos” Faction

19

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com)

There is a well-known dispute going on regarding the future status of one of the oldest shuls in Boro Park. The shul is known as Anshei Lubawitz, located at 4024 12th Avenue in Boro Park.

There are two factions in the dispute.

  • There is the “Save-the-Shul” faction who are against the plan to sell the shul building to a developer who plans on razing the shul, building five floors of condos and letting the congregants pray in an area on the first floor.
  • There is the “Turn-the-Shul-into-Condos” faction which supports the idea of selling the shul and turning it into condominiums so that the developer and his friends could make a sizable windfall.

What is new, is the publication of the latest volume of Teshuvos v’Hanhagos, volume VII, which contains a responsa on this very dispute.  Teshuvos v’Hanhagos is written by one of the leading Gedolim and Poskim in Eretz Yisroel, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shternbuch Shlita, Raavad of the Eida Chareidis.

Rav Shternbuch comes out decidedly on the side of the “Save-the-Shul” faction.  He writes in response #22:2.

I have been asked by a Kehillah in Chutz LaAretz that have a tall and beautiful synagogue.  Now, [there are those] who wish to sell the building of the congregation to a developer who wishes to raze the synagogue and build in its place a residential apartment house and he promises that the first floor of the building will be for the synagogue.

I have been asked if it is permitted to do this.  I responded to them that the prohibition of destroying a synagogue is indeed a very grave one.  It is only permitted [to do so] in order to build a more beautiful one its place or when in the current synagogue there is insufficient room for those who wish to pray there.

[Boro Park: The Latest on the Anshei Lubawiz Synagogue Condo Sale]

But in this situation, where the synagogue has ample room and is more beautiful as it is now where it is its own building and they are destroying it in order to earn profits, it is obvious that it is a certain prohibition to do so.  The congregation is obligated to demand that the sale be abolished immediately.”

The “Save-the-Shul” faction has applied for historical landmark status for the building.

“This neighborhood has some very serious parking problems in the first place,” remarked one neighbor.  “If the condominium project goes through it will create an additional parking nightmare.  I have no desire to drive around for twenty minutes just because someone wants to be a millionaire on our cheshbon.”

A Rav who is familiar with the situation pointed to the recent fire at Notre Dame:

“Imagine, lehavdil, what would happen if someone wanted to take Notre Dame and say, ‘Okay we will be building five levels of condominiums on top of the former Notre Dame and we will leave the bottom floor for the cathedral.’ The entire France and the Catholic world would be shrying Chai v’Kayam!  But some people are trying to this to a shul rachmana litzlan, the oldest shul in Boro Park and people are not shrying – this can chalilah be a big kitrug on the Klal Yisroel!  We are mechuyav in trying to stop this churban – Yes a churban!”

“There is another factor that all Jewish communities should be concerned about,” remarked a Rabbi Emeritus of another synagogue.  “The Torah community should stand up against unscrupulous individuals that attempt to take over shuls and synagogues and try to turn a profit.”

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

[A Halachic Analyis: Is A Boro Park Developer Allowed To Knock Down 111-Year-Old Chabad Shul]

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




19 COMMENTS

  1. Just make sure the Mayor of NYC is invited to the next bar mitzva there. Even though it is known that mayors don’t go to barmitzvas, a Yid never gives up and there is always the chance of a good story

  2. Given that the psak is a few years old and the dispute is yet unresolved, does that indicate the other side is disregarding the Psak?

  3. Da’as Torah is special. This Shul carries much history as well, and should be granted landmark status. Any needed repairs would certainly be done by the members and community.

  4. A huge Yasher Koach to Rabbi Hoffman for bringing attention to this critically important matter. Not only is it not ‘mentchlich’ that a few individuals who are solely looking to profit can steal a Shul but it is also strongly forbidden Halachacilly. May the Mispalelim prevail

  5. The point is that the shul may be beautiful but there is a need for subsidy. That reason is פשוט as well that is sufficient to permit the condos.כנלעד

  6. It’s unbelievable that such a thing can still happen in this day and age.

    It’s outrageous that a few self serving individuals have no problem hijacking a shul and disregarding yiddishkeit to boot.

    You don’t have to be Jewish to know that this is just plain wrong.

  7. The faith of Thee oldest synagogue of brooklyn should not be decided by a judge.

    Hopefully the developers will come to their senses and come forward to a Din Torah, and avert a chilul hashem

  8. I would like to add my 2 cents. As a long long time resident of that corner of Boro Park I took the effort and listened to both sides and I came to this conclusion. As Yidden, we must treasure our places of worship more than money. This structure can and should be maintained. This shul is filled with kedusha and rich Jewish history and should without a doubt being given a landmark status to save it from a few profiteers.

  9. The sellers and buyer certainly do not care for Da’as Torah. While the psak was given some 17 months ago, it was just published in Rav Shternbuch’s most recent Sefer.

  10. טייערע הייליקע יודן
    My heart is shattered that so called
    ‘heimishe yidden’ are even considering
    destroying such a holy place
    A place where
    קדושי עליון poured their hearts out to hashem.
    We must all raise our voices and not allow the destruction of this holy gem and in this zchus may we be זוכה to moshiach bimheirah Umein

  11. Who “owns” the building–is there a tzibur (e.g. some not-for-profit organization) that has legal title or is this a shul that is legally owned by a Rav or group of individuals?

  12. As is the case in so many instances, it matters who asks the question. So too in this case after buying hook line and sinker this story, and convinced of the wrong doing of the board, i have seen a nearly 40 page teshuvah\kuntres regarding this specific sheilah, and the rav premitted it. It seems there is two sides to every story. Its amazing to me that Rabbi Hoffman keeps on bringing up this machlokes. Let him take apart the kuntres which gives a whole different picture. In truth its not my and nor is it his business, we both don’t daven in the shul, so lets stop mixing in to other peoples fights. Furthermore stop using the torah as an excuse, because you never argued against the in-depth kuntres that agreed to the board, so if you care about the halachic aspect of the shailah, and not pure politics, then its obvious what you should be writing. My point is stop writing a one-sided argument, whith out tackling the other side head-on. EDITOR’S NOTE: WHY WOULD SOMEONE AUTHOR AN ANONYMOUS WORK IF IT IS A PSAK WITHOUT HAVING SPOKEN TO THE OTHER SIDE? RABBI HOFFMAN HAGAON HARAV RAV SHTERNBUCH SHLITA STAND BEHIND WHAT THEY WRITE. FURTHERMORE, THIS WORK RECEIVED INFORMATION ONLY FROM ONE SIDE. THE FACT IS THAT FUNDS CAN BE RAISED TO MAKE THE SHUL BETTER.

  13. One sided psak, did anyone from otherside speak to him before he gave it out…..??? Did he write a tshiva based on one side of story??? Once he hears one side without otherside present can he paskin?

  14. I live near this shul and I have davened there a FEW times. Yes, I typed FEW in bold letters because most people davening in this shul daven there a few times. Some a few times a week. Others a few times a year, but not too many people can say, “this is their shul. The shul where I daven 365 days a year.” Even those who are against the condo project say, “that at most they have 30 people that can claim membership.” Can 30 people maintain the cost of such a shul? I’m a member of a shul with about 250 people and the building is half the size and we struggle every year to cover our expenses. I 100% agree that the way those who sold the shul were wrong on the way they handled the situation and I don’t see why a din torah can say if they had the right to sell it. But those that are trying to make this shul into a landmark or going to rabanim to say they can’t take down the shul are also wrong. I once worked in an office in a building that was a landmark. Even changing a broken window had to go through a process. I am scared that if this building is given landmark status in a few years this shul will look like Bais Medrish Hagodal of the lower east side which burned down last summer. It too had landmark status, so the owners had to watch the building deteriorate and become a hangout for vagrants This has happened to many other shuls in New York. Yes, I’m aware of halacha problems of taking down an existing shul and I’m aware that the ones who sold may not be the ones who can legally sell the building. But as someone who davened in this shul a FEW times, I say, to make it a landmark or not do something where the shul can have an income to maintain itself is also a bizoyon of the shul.

  15. There is no owner of any of these old Shuls. They belong to the kehillah.

    Reb Moishe Paskened many times that the money from these old Shuls if they are sold, must be distributed to the mosdos in that neighborhood. There are signs hanging all over the Lower East Side community signed By Reb Dovid Feinstein affirming that psak.

    The Bais Medrash Hagadol was Hijacked by the Rabbis sons that have nothing to do with the Kehilah on the Lower East Side. They couldn’t be happier when it got burned down. The Rabbi is an employee and has no rights to the Shul.

    Same thing with the historic Romenishe Shul, the Rabbis sons took over the board, let the roof cave in, and are now marketing the property to sell and divert from the Kehillah.
    May they do tshuvah speedily.

    The is an epidemic of these vultures (Rabbis Sons, children of board members) that are looting these old shul buildings. There is a “frum” attorney that specializes in stealing these places legally.

    Money is a big yetzer hara.

  16. To the Editor
    Who cares if its an anonymous work. you can’t keep on writing about something and ignore a Torahdig work because you don’t know who wrote it. If after you take it apart the author doesn’t answer, then you have a point etc.
    EDITOR RESPONDS:
    THE ANONYMOUS WORK RESORTS TO
    1] NAME-CALLING OF THOSE WHO WERE OFFENDED BY THE SALE
    2] CLAIMS THAT THEY ARE NOT “L’SHAIM SHAMAYIM” AND CALLS THEM KORACH V’AIDASO – EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE ONLY TRYING TO KEEP THEIR SHUL AND THE OTHER SIDE IS THE ONE WITH PROFIT-MAKING ISSUES.
    3] FAILING TO MAKE ANY MENTION THAT THERE IS MAJOR PROFITEERING GOING ON WITH THE OTHER SIDE – THAT THEY RECEIVED OWNERSHIP OF THE BUILDING WITH ZERO MONEY DOWN
    4] SAYING THAT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SHUL IS BEING DONE BY GENTILES ANYWAY
    5] RELYING ON THE FACT THAT THE “GENTILE” GOVERNMENT WILL MAKE SURE THAT AN ALTERNATIVE SYNAGOGUE WILL BE BUILT AND REMAIN AND THEREFORE THE CONCERNS OF THE GEMORAH DO NOT APPLY
    6] AS WELL AS HAVING HEBREW GRAMMATICAL ERRORS.

    Furthermore, this is a velt issue that pertains to all of Klal Yisroel – not just a few people trying to make money off the back of a shul. Gedolei HaPoskim have authored Teshuvos on the matter prohibiting it – including Rav Shternburg Shlita. If the author of the 41 page kuntrus is serious, he should put his name to it.

  17. To the Editor:
    I’m reading the comments and am extremely taken aback, why was this particular topic zocheh to have you take such a personal interest?
    What was even more surprising to me was how well you conflate the issue. Even if you are correct that the anonymous author does resort to name calling, it does not negate the Torhahdige part of it. In other words you are committing a well known logical fallacy, Ad Hominem, your attacking the messenger not the message. Three out of six ‘arguments’ commit this mistake, (1,2,6).
    Your third point, does not pertain to the actual question. The issue that was raised in the Teshuvah VeHanhugas was about selling a Beis Midrash just for monetary gain, whereas the focal point of the kuntras was if one is allowed to, and how to go about, selling a Beis Midrash that was in disrepair.
    As for point 4 and 5, it is quite obvious that you have not read the kuntres since that was not by any measure used as a heter rather as a סניף.
    It would actually be very interesting to see R’ Hoffman actually summarize the kuntras and refute it point by point.

  18. Dear Editor, in your super fabulous reply to THINKER 123, you wrote Rav Shternburg – you meant Rav Shternbuch.
    Please correct it!