It’s a 40-year old shul on Pico Blvd that’s gone to pot.
After weeks of escalating tension, the story came to a head recently when a few tough-looking gentlemen interrupted the post-Shabbat evening prayers and served the president of the shul with a legal summons charging Young Israel of Beverly Hills with fraud and breach of contract. The summons was on behalf of a local caterer who had rented kitchen space from the synagogue about six months ago and who was now engaged in a bitter dispute with the shul on a host of issues, such as: the terms and validity of the agreement, who is allowed to enter the social hall and whether the kosher certification prevented open access to the hall, who should prepare the Shabbos Kiddush, whether the president of the shul was in fact a duly elected president or even a member of the shul and whether the shul had the right to terminate the agreement.
I got most of this from the summons itself, which is available to the public. I don’t know about you, but legal complaints give me indigestion. By necessity, they’re completely one-sided. The aggrieved party looks like a saint who has done nothing wrong, while the accused party is made to look like a serial deceiver who’s only out to pull a fast one on the complainer.
If you like to read stuff that’s fair and balanced, don’t become a lawyer.
As expected, when I checked out the other side, I got a whole other story. I don’t know who’s right, but it’s clear that both sides made a sloppy deal. Nevertheless, the shul is planning a vigorous defense, including a possible eviction notice. They feel they’ve been taken advantage of, and this will be expressed in their answer to the summons. Eventually, there will be two aggrieved parties facing off, and a judge or jury will decide what is fair and balanced— unless the parties reach a settlement first.
But the damage will have been done, and scars will remain. This is a shul that has gone without a rabbi for more than a year, and it was hoping to rejuvenate itself this year. Instead, it’s been mired in a petty and ugly quarrel in a deal gone sour.