What’s new in that nasty dispute at Young Israel of Beverly Hills?

It’s a broken down shul on Pico near Shenandoah.

I heard about this new lawsuit against the shul president Howard Zisblatt: YAKKOV BURK VS. LAW OFFICES OF HOWARD B. ZISBLATT INC. ETALCase#: SC097363.

Filing Date: 03/07/2008 Case Type: Othr Breach Contr/Warr-not Fraud (General Jurisdiction)
Status: Pending
Future Hearings 06/25/2008 at 08:30 am in department WEX at 9355 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 Initial Status Conference

Zisblatt sends in a letter to this week’s Jewish Journal:

We read with interest David Suissa’s column, "Food Fight," regarding problems at Young Israel of Beverly Hills, our venerable 40-year-old shul in Pico-Robertson (March 7).

Suissa chastises us, however, for not heeding the advice of our sages and the precepts of the holy Torah. Had we done so, Suissa concludes, a "crystal-clear agreement" would be in place, which would have protected the shul from the current lawsuit.

Human failure resulted in this unmerited and malicious lawsuit: misplaced trust, a naïve belief that the unworkable can be fixed and a reticence to assert our rights are some. Failing to execute a "crystal-clear agreement," however, is not one of them. That option was never presented. Now Young Israel of Beverly Hills has been dragged, nisht villendik, into this chillul Hashem. Precious community resources must now be diverted to attorneys’ fees.

Suissa, join us anytime to see how Judaism is practiced Young Israel of Beverly Hills style. You won’t leave disappointed.

David Suissa writes in the March 8 Jewish Journal:

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.

So how should we look at this kind of infighting among Jews? Should we be saddened by it or see it as just another saga in the affairs of men?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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